Sitka & Spruce Quince and Taragon | Bar Sajor Quince and Sour Blackberry | Rain Shadow Celery
My bubbly fascination is in hyperdrive and it’s not for that from a wine bottle. Surprise, surprise but lately I’ve found myself craving the house soda’s at Sitka & Spruce and Bar Sajor. The perfect amount of sweet syrupy goodness + the most glorious flavors. They always seemed kind of a secret at Sitka since somehow that is the quintessential glasses-of-wine-with-lunch-spot but they are there, and the flavors change often. Think Lemon Verbena, Quince, or Elderberry.
At the new Bar Sajor they are front and center on the menu, so if you find yourself there you must try the cucumber whey or the sour blackberry. There’s also the drinking vinegars and those are epic. There was a beet one that looked beautiful. Ah, but don’t worry. After your soda you can have a glass of wine or cider. That’s usually how I roll.
Also, if you hop across the street to the new Rain Shadow Meats 2 they have the best sandwiches and salads for lunch, but they also have a killer celery soda. A take on the traditional Jewish deli staple this one was so good with my mortadella sammie and potato salad yesterday.
I’m actually encouraging you to skip the sparkling wine and try one of these concoctions on your next date. Then tell me about it later so we can gush.
Are you all settled into this lovely new year? It’s nice to have a bit of a normal routine again, I must say. And now that we’re on the upswing for longer days it all seems to be quite nice to me. I’m looking forward to finalizing plans for our little shindig and sharing some recipes with you. Tonight we’re going to play with gougères!
Happy weekend to you. And may you play with your food too. Kiss!
Mint, vintage Kaj Franck enamelware bowls from Andrew! The only hearts approved for our Lucky Valentine party so far. (There will be a strict limit until I can find some good party inspiration that isn’t beyond cheesy. Seriously, try searching for Valentine party inspo.)
A sneak peek at Seattle’s Bar Sajor from Chef Matt Dillon. I was so lucky (if not slightly groupie) to tag along with Andrew to see the space as they’re finishing construction. Hallelujah, Pioneer Square finally has a chance to live up to its potential! Giddy doesn’t even describe how I feel.
For me, there are only a couple of chefs in Seattle that are showcasing what Seattle dining and cuisine is really and truly about. In a place and time where the hype-machine glorifies mediocrity it’s easy to confuse glitz for good food and celebrity chefdom for good cooking. There are, however, two chefs worthy of praise and recognition, and Renée Erickson is one of them. (It’s no surprise to anyone who catches my weekly favorite recaps that Chef Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce and The Corson Building is the other.)
You’ll recognize Renée as the name behind Boat Street Café and The Walrus and the Carpenter, and while those are some of the best that Seattle has to offer, there really is nothing quite like her latest venture, The Whale Wins.
I was lucky enough to be able to join Andrew for a little sneak preview on Friday and I can’t even begin to describe the setting or the food. For day three of a secret soft opening it was nothing less than stellar.
Located in the newly renovated Fremont Collective building on Stone Way, The Whale Wins is one part of a quadplex of sorts. To the left you’ll find the relocated Joule, to the right you’ll find the relocated Evo ski and snowboard shop, and downstairs you’ll find an indoor skate park.
When you take your seat be sure to look up and check out the warm welcome from the light installations. H-E-L-L-O, H-E-L-L-O.
Then marvel at the open ceiling with exposed beams that purportedly mimics those of a ships internal lateral hull structure. Regardless of what they are, it’s gorgeous.
Like both spaces before, the setting Renée has cultivated here is gorgeous. I have too many favorites to mention, but to name a few there are the marble top tables dressed with butcher paper, sea green/blue thonet chairs, ship lap panelled walls, Blue Willow china serviettes, killer lighting, and an enormous vintage sink at one of the server stations. Oh, and the vintage brass pepper mills? Un. Real. (We now have one coming, by the way.)
Elegant and bright, yet casual and welcoming. I’m just so excited that Seattle has another perfectly Northwest culinary destination.
Real. Classic. Perfectly executed.
Succulent roasted chicken with crisp skin. Perfectly roasted beef tenderloin (served at room temperature) with vibrant arugula pesto potato salad. Roasted radicchio with its tangy bitterness cut by a creamy buttermilk dressing and a burst of poppyseed.
The menu seemed to be structured around classics: perfectly executed staples, seasonal and local ingredients, and Renée’s mom’s brownie recipe! From beginning to end the meal was delicious, comforting, soulful, and endorphin-inducing. The main courses from the Oven section of the menu were elegant and sturdy with SO much flavor imparted from the wood-fired oven. And really, I never order chicken but this one shouldn’t be missed…and neither should the roast beef for that matter. Additionally, one of my favorite parts was the use of herbs: vibrant and refreshing, but not overpowering.
And if it wasn’t already perfect enough, they offer my favorite François Pinon Vouvray Non-Dose bubbly by the glass ($10) and by the bottle ($40)!
Winter Lettuces, herbs, pistacios, and Yarmuth sheepsmilk cheese
Roasted Radicchio, hazelnuts, buttermilk poppyseed vinaigrette, and preserved lemon rind
Roasted half chicken, cauliflower, butter, and chervil
Roast beef tenderloin (sliced thin and served at room temp), arugula pesto, potatoes, and fresh horseradish cream
Shirlee’s brownie (omg!)
Warm, welcoming, perfect. Considering all of the things that float through your head in preparation for an opening the staff was attentive, happy, fun, and relaxed. Pros from beginning to end.
In the end…
It’s likely there will be quite a frenzy when it officially opens on Wednesday (Halloween), so be ready. But here’s my take on it: dinner here is going to be obvious. It will be amazing, but it will also be a spot to see and be seen, and that’s not why I eat out. I’m not a foodie. I seek out and appreciate legitimately good food. So for me, in the end, it’s all about lunching. This is the best opportunity to get to know the staff, the food, the space. And it’s so much more personal. Take advantage of those special days and turn them into special dates by setting aside time to make it a true lunch. Have a glass (or two) of bubbly, sit back and let the kitchen determine your courses, and add dessert (have I mentioned Shirlee’s brownie yet?) with Stumptown Coffee’s Duramina french press.
I am back from a great holiday and now I must settle back in to a routine and prepare for a new (and my favorite) season. I’m thinking of all the vegetables that will be appearing at the farmer’s market, and of all the things I want to eat. I’m also thinking that perhaps I would like a few new wardrobe staples. It sounds like there are many lists to be made; god I love writing lists.
I hope you have a sexy weekend ahead of you, perhaps preparing for the changing season. Here are a few of my favorite things from my holiday in The Bay. Kiss!
The last summer mani. The time has come for greys and burgundies, but I couldn’t resist one last summer fling.
Beautifully wrapped candles at the Diptyque boutique. How I wish I could wrap packages like this.
The dim sum cart at State Bird Provisions. My love of small plates and variety was most certainly satisfied. We had such a great meal.
Hooray for summer! And hooray for getaways, holidays, and vacations! Obviously still riding high from my week away, and another little getaway this week up to Port Townsend and Lummi Island, I was feeling so good I barely even blinked when dealing with an irrational customer the other day. A true testament to the power of holidays. But also perhaps a sign that I’m starting to accept that people are crazy…and those are the ones that are predisposed to having Yelp accounts. Seriously.
Regardless though, life is good. Like, really, really good. Happy weekend to you my friends. Kiss!
Our cucumber, tomato salad. We’ve been living off this salad, and as long as we can keep getting the Japanese cucumbers (hidden in the bottom) we’ll continue to make it. Another no-recipe, recipe: sliced cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced spring onion, minced parsley and mint. Drizzle olive oil, red wine vinegar. Salt, pepper to taste. Crumbled Israeli feta. Toss. Eat. (The feta mixes into the dressing in the best possible way to make it oh so creamy. You’ve got to try it!)
A ginger fizz with pineapple weed. Not a gin girl in the least, but a sip from my guy’s cocktail at The Willows restaurant this week might have converted me. Frothy and smooth with a light herbal punch from the gin, and a hint of citrus/pineapple aroma from the weed.
Dinette’s awesome ice cream cookie sandwiches. Housemade cookies and ice cream in combinations like gingersnap with earl grey, or chocolate with salted peanut butter. The best I’ve ever had. (Their summer sandwich menu is also to die for!)
I suppose I should start by saying that I have never been into weddings, never really wanted my own, and have only ever been to one or two that have been truly special and representative of the couple that was being celebrated. (Hey, I have a low cheesiness threshold.) But it was, however, a completely different story when my brother and Mari asked me to plan their wedding back in February. They were in the midst of moving down to San Francisco, and gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted! So yes, the best wedding I ever attended was the one I planned for my brother.
The only criteria we decided on was that it be small, meaningful, and very us…which essentially meant good food and hospitality for our friends and family. I was lucky enough to be able to use our restaurant as the venue for the reception, and the talents of our chef for the menu planning. Outside of that it was all about transforming the restaurant into a magical evening.
Here’s the story of how, with some great help, I planned a wedding reception for 75 of the couple’s closest friends and family IN JUST 2 MONTHS:
Poms and streamers
The first thing we did was settle on colors and decorations. Since many of our friends (and us) come often to the restaurant I wanted to be sure they felt like they were walking into a party and not the dining room they were all so familiar with. The best way to achieve the biggest transformation was to create a series of tissue paper poms to be suspended from the ceiling. There are tons of shops on Etsy that sell them, but we settled on a peacock scheme and ordered 5 different colors of tissue paper so we could make our own. With an assembly line of people to fold and fluff it was not a bad undertaking. The hardest part was rigging a system with our high, open ceilings, but that’s what my guy was for. 270-ish poms later the ceiling was filled and the doorways were lined. I also created a cozy space in the bar with a crepe paper and tinsel curtain. The goal was to stay away from prom decor, and I admit there were times I was a bit nervous about this, but in the end I assure you the poms were anything but cheesy prom. They really are beautiful.
The dining room just before guests arrived
As a takeaway for the guests I ordered custom M&M’s and filled large candy tubes. The other finishing touches were huge white 36-inch balloons, large white tablecloths, and lots of candlelight from basic tea light holders.
I also rearranged the dining room and bought some small tables to create a more casual lounge seating area with the booths. So with some tall tables for standing and mingling there were also basic table settings and the cocktail tables to break-up the room, making it easy for people to mingle.
Mari just before the ceremony and her bouquet I threw together.
I was probably most apprehensive about doing the flowers. I’ve practiced arrangements here and there at home, but nothing like creating a cohesive set. My strategy here was to buy as many of the most beautiful flowers I could find, so all I really had to do was place them together. We used mason jars as vases which is a sweet, inexpensive, and on-trend option. Also great because now I have lots of jars for canning this summer.
Our flower cart and bouquets
I was actually getting nervous because my guy and I had this unbelievable collection of flowers and there were some other (legit) wedding planners that were eyeing our stash. I couldn’t really blame them though, we killed it with the shopping!
Of course the thing I was most excited about was planning the menu. I’m not afraid to say that I am an appetizer aficionado, seriously. So I set out to create a menu with a series of smaller bites that was substantial enough to serve as a full meal. My favorite part of any wedding are the appetizers as dinner is always short on execution. Here we had all of our favorite Thai dishes in smaller sizes.
After the menu was settled it was all about the flatware. I found Crate & Barrel to be the best spot for basic pieces. The key here was to plan: lots of post-its, lists, plating and arrangement testing, and multiple trips to the store.
Here are some of my favorite dishes from the reception:
Noodles with crab and wontons in mini to-go boxes (duck pastry above)
Ba Mee Hang is an egg noodle dish that we served with crab and hand rolled won tons. It’s always hard to decide how to serve noodles so instead of trying to make a giant bowl look appetizing (and easy to serve) I decided to pre-serve them in mini Chinese take-away boxes with small chopsticks. The presentation was perfect, and so easy to grab and eat while mingling.
Tom Kah shots with grilled prawns
Tom Kah soup is a popular Thai soup with lemongrass and coconut, which is another dish that can be difficult to serve to large groups, so instead of a heated tray I thought a small shot with a grilled prawn would be much better. These were a hit!
Thai Iced Tea we bottled
A wine and Thai Iced Tea station was set up for people to serve themselves in the bar. We also had mini bottles of champagne on ice with striped straws which eliminated the need for a ton of champagne glasses.
Here’s a quick glance at the table with lots of familiar and more traditional Thai bites. The other end had some larger dishes (a curry station, pork belly salad, rice, etc).
After the party had come and gone I came to realize the DIY aspect is what made the wedding for everyone, and really, there’s no need for over-the-top extravagances that can’t be afforded. For us, it was about planning the best party we could to celebrate with the closest of friends. So, restaurant resources aside, I hope you feel inspired to plan, decorate, flower, eat, and drink your way through your big celebration!
More fun party and entertaining help from my Lucky Valentine party.
I love that Portland is just a few hours away; it’s such an easy jaunt from Seattle whether by train (my fave option) or car. For me, the food scene (overall) trumps Seattle any day, and really…it doesn’t hurt to do some tax-free shopping. I was lucky enough to tag along with my sweetheart at the last minute, so while he’s at work I’m able to get into some trouble on my own. I covered quite a few stops, but unfortunately some of the best shops don’t allow photos to be taken. I’ll throw together a little list once I finish exploring, so in the meantime here are some things you might want to check out the next time you have the chance to escape. Happy, happy weekend to you!
The sweetest room key ever. Our hotel has me feeling all sorts of old-Hollywood glamourous. It’s a lot of fun, and the room is great. (I’ve heard some of the rooms can be quite small so be sure to ask about the types of rooms when you book.)
The little touches at Little Bird. Solo lunch in a city that’s not your own can be so romantic. If it’s something new for you add a glass of bubbly and a magazine, then just sit back and watch. You learn a lot about the locals (and yourself too). By the way, don’t skip dessert at Little Bird. I mean it.
The endless aisles at Powell’s Books. The most amazing maze of a bookstore. After floating through the cookbook section I did the same in puzzles and games. Leave it to me to buy a game (Big Boggle!) from a bookstore. This is a “must-do” in PDX.
It just so happened that yesterday I had the chance to join a friend for a fundraiser to benefit the Pollinator Pathway at The Corson Building. Now when I say join-a-friend I mean we stopped in briefly before I had to head to work, so…we missed the auction, the music, the food, and the booze. (Sigh.) But still, I had a lovely time taking everything in, and my first visit to The Corson Building was wonderful! The grounds, the restored building, the amazing kitchen, and all of the original vintage touches just made me really happy. I promise, I really did try to take some pictures, but if you could only see the state of my phone you’d understand there really is no way I could take anything that resembles much of a photo. I don’t have any proof of the awesomeness that the picnic was, but nevertheless, the cause is one that I think about often.
Here’s a little note about the Pollinator Pathway:
Pollinating insects are in crisis, with populations plummeting across the U.S. The work that these tiny animals do to sustain plants and food crops– usually working out-of-sight and out-of-mind– is critical to not just their survival but our own.
The Pollinator Pathway is a plan to provide an urban model of support to the foundation of the food web. With a mile-long series of gardens in planting strips along Seattle’s Columbia Street, the project establishes a corridor between the two green spaces bookending the project-Seattle University’s campus at 12th, and Nora’s Woods at 29th.
Awesome, right! I really miss the time I would spend at the SF Food Bank, so lately I’ve been looking for the right volunteer opportunity. I was really excited to see this sweet little project yesterday, even if for just a short while. If you’re interested in donating your time or some funds click here for more info.
Working. Eating. Working. And I love it.
Planning and starting a new business has been more work than I ever thought, but it has also been more rewarding and fulfilling than anything I’ve done before. It hasn’t been easy but I’m learning so much about the business (and myself). Let’s see…since I last left you anything of much substance I can summarize things pretty easily with this: I relocated to Seattle from San Francisco, found an apartment, started a restaurant with my dad, learned how to bar tend, and now work seven days a week. There’s tons more to share but I’ll be sprinkling in some stories here and there.
Check us out here if you’re curious.
(Glad to be back.)
Sometimes I’m embarrassed at my blogging habits. There I was, bragging about scoring two seats to dinner at Tartine Afterhours, and here I am, two weeks later just posting the review. It was a lovely dinner, and most certainly post-worthy the very next day, but I must admit that I am slightly embarrassed at the quality of the images. I need a new camera, but even then I don’t want to be that annoying person that uses a flash and offends everyone else trying to enjoy their dinner. In this family-style setting especially, a big flashy camera would not have been the most appropriate addition to the table.
So in a pinch I used the flashlight app on my phone as lighting and my Lova took the pics. We must have looked ridiculous, but at least I didn’t attempt to employ this tactic to take pictures of the community appetizers and mains. Bottom line: these pictures don’t do the food or the dinner justice, but because Tartine bread, and beautifully fresh vegetables were involved I must share with you all.
We arrived a bit early and sat out front on the bench, and to be completely honest, we shared a cup of Bi-Rite soft serve while we waited. (I didn’t have lunch, so there.) Once the space was ready we got our table assignment and happily I think we got the best seat in the house: a smaller table in the small nook by the coffee bar, away from the commotion of the main thoroughfare of the small dining room. Cozy candle light and small bites were waiting for us.
Gazpacho and tomato granita with bread croutons
The first course was a perfectly seasoned tomato gazpacho. So many different textures, temperatures, and flavors this dish was a delight. The tomato granita was gorgeous, and with the addition of the fresh crunch from the cucumber and shallot, and the hearty croutons, it was a wonderful start.
Family style – halibut with romesco, roasted vegetables with arugula
I’ve always loved romesco, actually I’m nearly obsessed with it but have been disappointed by half-assed versions so I’ve taken to making my own. This version, however, was not a disappointment and was a great accompaniment to the perfectly cooked halibut. And the vegetables. Oh, how I loved the vegetables. To be honest there was a pretty name for the dish, but I can’t for the life of me locate the menu I brought home. I believe is was a spanish name (eek!), but essentially eggplant, squash, zucchini, and onion were roasted until they were almost creamy and tossed with a light vinaigrette and topped with a peppery arugula and served chilled. I’ve been dreaming of recreating this ever since that night. Once I receive my copy of the Tartine Bread cookbook I’ll check to see if it’s there so I can try it out.
Affogato with toasted coconut ice cream, caramel sauce, and candied bread
When I saw affogato as the dessert I was so excited (even after having a Bi-Rite snack just before). Ever since the affogato at Blue Bottle I’ve been hooked. This version had a nice twist with the toasted coconut ice cream and caramel sauce. The ice cream wasn’t quite set, so it was closer to its custard form, but I know how hard it is to make from scratch so I’m not saying a word, and it was still really good. The little bits of candied bread were a nice touch too, a little tough on the teeth, but still very tasty.
Once again, another wonderful culinary experience with my Lover. I’d love to go to the next one but figure I should give others the chance to enjoy a lovely night with new friends and good food at Tartine Afterhours.