Recently I’ve been blogging more about my food experiences at home. Finding solace in those moments in the kitchen, discovering new recipes and cooking techniques. Originally when I started Scrumptious Seattle I primarily blogged about restaurants and places to eat. There are so many wonderful spots in Seattle, it’s often hard to to return to the same restaurants because I’m always in pursuit to try the latest and greatest. Here’s some highlights of special spots I’ve enjoyed this past year:
Inspired by CS Lewis’ poem, this charming space oozes whimsy, elegance and light- from the antiqued-gray wood chandelier to the open kitchen featuring the bounty of simple ingredients, you want to belly up to the bar and stay awhile. Or linger over beautiful crafted cocktails in the small outdoor patio. No wonder why it was just named one of the 10 best in the US by GQ Magazine. Featuring local seafood, mostly Oysters of course and small plates, The Walrus Bar is surely to be a staple in my neighborhood. My favorites include the smoked trout served atop lentils with walnuts, crème fraiche and house pickled red onions and the steak tartare with farm egg yolk and crostini. In the summer I sipped delightful cocktails such as the Elderflower Fizz with Gin, Lillet, St. Germain and soda. Such few places in Seattle have the genuine warmth and style of The Walrus Bar. I truly enjoyed the new addition to Ballard Ave and look forward to toasting with friends there in the months to come.
Tucked away from all the hustle and bustle of downtown Ballard, Sambar became a treasured discovery of 2010. Although many other Seattlelites already raved about their stellar cocktails, I had yet to venture into the small yet oh so charming space. Adjacent to Le Gourmand, Sambar is primarily dedicated to the craft of the cocktail. Jay, the master mixologist can create almost any concoction to your liking using a variety of the lesser known liquors and distinct flavor profiles. In June, I went to Sambar with a few of my fellow LUPEC ladies, pictured above the Arabesque cocktail: Anejo Rum, East India Sherry, Seville Orange and Sage. A constantly rotating menu does feature seasonal flavors. Oh and don’t miss their fries with the aioli. Light and crispy with just the right touch of salt, I daresay they place in my top 5 for the city!
Spinasse is not necessarily the hidden gem or secret of Seattle with all of the recent accolades from the press including Best New Chef and Top Ten Best Places for Pasta from Bon Appetit and Food & Wine. Oh and some person named David Beckham tried to dine a few months ago sans reservation; he was told he had to wait for a table as they were already full! Regardless, I had yet to venture into my new favorite Italian spot in the city until last month. I’ve already returned. The rustic food, provides the platform for perhaps unusual flavor combinations that just work. From an unexpectedly perfect “Russian Salad” composed of house-cured tuna maionese, squash and capers to another Insalata with roasted beets & radicchio topped with crushed egg, breadcrumbs and pecorino, a recent dinning companion proclaimed this may be the best dish I’ve eaten this year. And then there’s the Tajarin pasta. The delicate fine hand cut egg pasta studded with either the pork/beef ragu or my favorite, simply prepared with butter and sage. I like to not think about the obviously insane amount of butter used to achieve perfection. The fork tender tangitelle with milk braised pork was also a hit. Sharing is best. And if they have any rendition of the creamy goat cheese mousse, get it, hands down. I look forward to dining behind the lace curtains among the rustic wood tables very soon. Until then, I’ll be dreaming about possibly the best meals of the year at Spinasse. And possibly making Jason Stratton’s Negroni Chicken with Braised Blood Oranges at home.
I have a bit of confession, I could do without the BBQ at Roy’s. The Georgia Gold proclaimed by Sunset to be some of the best in the West isn’t all that grand. But, even before Seattle Magazine let out my little secret, I knew my sandwich of choice at Roy’s. The Oyster Po’Boy. Composed of smoked oysters from Taylor Shellfish topped with slaw & aoili, this po’boy packs just the right amount of punch on a roll from the esteemed Columbia City Bakery down the block. Get it. Even if you aren’t a raw oyster fan, you’ll surprised by the tender and smoky oysters balanced out by the creamy aoili and acidity of the vinegar based slaw. Today, I just read this via Nancy Leson. Roy’s is to close effective Jan 9. I’ll be certain to savour their great Po’Boy one last time.
You know those nights you don’t want to cook, it’s pouring rain and you want to eat your food direct from a square Chinese takeout containers. Well, on one of these very nights, I discovered Chef Liao in Phinney Ridge. What I didn’t know is that they make some of the best pot stickers in the city. Others even local experts agree with me. The thickly wrapped, crispy yet chewy pork filled pockets are perfectly fried, while not having that doughy or slimy consistency you find all too often in Chinese restaurants. They remind me of the potstickers of my youth on the East Coast, served with a ginger-soy dipping sauce. Other dishes are pretty decent including the Honey-Walnut Prawns. Portions for items such as fried rice and chow main are extremely generous, easily lasting multiple meals. Although I much preferred the BBQ pork fried rice when I reheated it on the stove and added some green onions. Originally the rice lacked the crispness or rather “fried” aspect. Better yet, they deliver to Ballard and always have hot, fresh food pretty quickly for takeout.
Full Pull isn’t a restaurant nor a bar, but is without a doubt is one of my favorite places in SoDo. Think of it as a boutique wine shop. Sourcing some of the best wines from primarily Washington State, they leverage strong relationships with the winemakers to bring stellar wines to the consumer (me!). Oh and the people behind Full Pull are pretty awesome in their own respect. In just one year, they’ve grown tremendously, getting shoutouts from wine buffs and building a bigger fan base week by week. This warehouse is a mighty dangerous place for me to visit- generally never leaving empty handed. Emily introduced me to one of my newest obsessions, Trust Cellars. Full Pull also has hosted several events including bringing wine-makers such as Rotie Cellars, making traditional Rhone style wines using grapes from Washington State to the New Guard ClamBake dinner this August. We gathered at a communal table, talked, drank wine and cracked crab in the tradition of New England prepared by one of Seattle’s rising star chefs formerly of Sitka & Spruce/Tako Truk fame and the newly opened Madison Park Conservatory’s, Cormac Mahoney. Perhaps this embodied what summer should encompass. Others agreed. That’s the kind of space Full Pull creates. An intimate spot for people to gather over a shared interest, share knowledge and raise a glass of wine, comparing notes and discussing the merits of the grapes while perhaps meeting new friends and supporting a local business. This is something I support. Join their email list and buy wine. I promise, the selection and value for the quality of product will not disappoint.
Most places seem to forget the golden rule, focus on one thing and do it well. Instead they attempt to offer a plethora of options never striving for excellence in any category. The Noble Fir in downtown Ballard showcases craft beer and cider in a casual setting. With a constantly rotating tap list they offer artisanal ciders and beers sourced primarily throughout the US with a few select drafts & bottles from Europe. The owners, passionate about exploring wilderness of the Northwest, one a former REI employee created a space to reflect their vision. A large wood encased nook with benches houses maps and other nature travel guides. The Noble Fir is just the place to meet friends for a casual drink or spend a leisurely afternoon planning your next camping trip.
Salumi, legendary for their cured meats produced by the Batali family attracts epic long lines for their stellar sandwiches. Probably one of the most well-known lunch spots in Seattle for tourists and locals alike, I too often frequent this mecca. This year I was lucky enough to experience the back-room lunch, a multi-course meal for a small party booked many months in advance at the extremely reasonable rate of $40 per person (tax & tip additional). Plan in advance, the meal is served a leisurely pace, approximately three or so hours plus you are encouraged to bring your own bottles of wine or consume the “house” wine provided at the table. My friend Lisa wrote in length about the family style meal, however I wanted to give note to this experience and highly recommend you make the time to experience the back-room lunch if you live in Seattle or plan to visit in the future.