Archives for posts with tag: restaurants

After some serious analysis, I’ve decided that it’s just more economical for me to go out to eat than it is for me to buy groceries. The only time I’m at my house, I’m asleep. I do eat breakfast at home (yogurt and apples and granola, going on every day for a year now) but other than that, I’m running around like a little Seattle rabbit girl, nibbling here and there. Nannying is ultra-conducive to grazing; someone else’s snacks! And in my new gig, assistant-ing for PR for restaurants (which is so far, so rad), there’s a lot of visiting the clients, aka: eating with the clients. And of course I need to know the product, right? And the competition, right? So I’d better go out every night, right? But really. Lunch, either cheese and crackers or sad salad, if I’m brown-bagging. Or a Clif bar. Blah. Rather have: pho. Or a quick sushi. Or PCC pizza. Quicker and easier to eat out than it is to go home and scramble scrabble something awful together. Ditto for dinner. Either eating with nanny kids (they’re eating mac n’ cheese, so I should too…solidarity) or going out. Aside from a entire crisper drawer filled with apples, all the lovely produce I so love to buy at the market withers away in my fridge. Cauliflower gets a strange maroon sheen, carrots lose their snap, lettuce becomes a sad soft version of its former self. (Beets somehow live on forever, never changing, glaring at me and guilting me about my failed cleanse.) So, better to just put my stomach in the hands of the good chefs of this great city. They cook better than I can anyway.

So here are some bites:

Pate with spicy peppers on toast, dates stuffed with goat cheese, and a pretzel with rarebit at Dinette, sweet little living-room-y Cap Hill place with Amanda. Snacks and freelance-life-whining/rejoicing. Then a second dinner (we are hungry chicks, okay) at Rione XIII: pasta with guinciale and fried (I just typed “fried” as “friend”…) artichokes.




Dim Sum for dear Michelle’s birthday. Read the Chinatown issue of Lucky Peach on the plane to SEA, got picked up by Log & Michelle, ate dim sum. Perfect. Michelle has chopsticks skillz. And Logie Bear ate gluten. I love hum bao. Good times.



A rare virtuous lunch at home.


The Whale Wins, with Madeline. Sardines on toast with fennel (and curried tomatoes which sounds totally odd but I’m pretty sure this whole town is in love with it.) Culatello, which means “little butt” in my translation and is like extra-salty dream prosciutto. Roasted (seriously so roasted. I will now let my vegetables linger in the oven for ages, as they were black and amazing) carrots and fennel with harissa and yogurt. Marrow bones (three is too many for two people though…got mega marrowed out.) Pretty little salad with pistachios and parm. Beautiful braised pork (oh my) with stewed apples and homemade mustard. Yum. New restaurant service issues, but food: good.






On Wednesday, I went to El Celler de Can Roca, the molecular gastronomy project of the three Roca brothers, you know, the second best restaurant in the world. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, it certainly isn’t “my kind” of food; my favorite restaurants are funky and warm and comfortable, innovative in little ways, good in that they just serve good ol’ food, not in that they force food across phase changes. But still, they had to be doing something right, to come in second only to Noma and Rene Redzepi (…be still, my heart. Chef crush.) so the anticipation far outweighed any trepidation. After a scenic Spanish countryside drive from L’Escala to Girona, my cousin Tania, my aunt and uncle Cesca and Ross, and I all wandered down the block from our one-night apartment, strategically located a hundred yards from the restaurant, down to El Celler at 9 pm to begin the extravaganza. One of the first thoughts I had upon arriving at the restaurant was: a restaurant, even one of the best in the world, is still a restaurant. Still a place serving one of the most basic human needs for life on earth; food, calories, energy. Then my second thought, with the arrival of the fist few dishes: but the food that meets that human need can be manipulated and elevated and twiddled with so far from the norm that is nearly unrecognizable. And pretty darn delicious.

We got two menus in English, two in Catalan, figuring that we could use all the info we could get in this brave new edible word. We were seated and promptly poured glasses of Cava… the first glasses of many. After a visit from a hostess, a server, and a sommelier,  First, the world. A teeny little tree stump with five wire halos coming out of it, all encased by a lantern shade with the world printed on it. A flourish-y pull by one of the black-suited servers revealed five little food blobs, each representing a nation. Mexico, Peru, Thailand, Morocco, and Japan. We had to guess which was which…we failed miserably. Jello-ed guacamole, Mexico. A hard shell that burst open, fishy liquid poring out, ceviche from Peru. A little sushi-esque something-or-other, Japan. A teensy little pastry, sticky with honey, Morocco. Another green orb, cilantro for Thailand. They were interesting for sure, but they weren’t all good. (Morocco excepted, mini baklava, ten more please.) They were a bit strong and odd and gave me a weensy bit of that “Oh, lord, what have we gotten into?” feeling. Then, the famous Roca amuse bouche: caramelized anchovy-stuffed olives, hanging from a little bonsai olive tree. This is the kind of molecular gastronomy oddity that totally works. Flavors that sound awful when read together aloud, but somehow zingily come together in a good way. Flavor combos that you know come from many, many failed kitchen experiments. (And fun to eat too, popping them off their little branch-hooks.)

After that, the truffle course. (Disclosure: truffle scent makes me gag a little. A summer of making stupid truffle salads all night, every night, and constantly smelling of truffle oil will turn you right off of ’em.) A rock-dish (rocks cut in half with perfect little treat-holding hollows inside…the serving-ware equivalent of a hide-a-key, I need one) held a little pile of, um, truffle truffles. Consistency of a chocolate truffle, flavor of a real truffle. And little mini hum baos stuffed with creamy truffle. Delicious, surely, if truffle didn’t transport you back into a hot kitchen at 11 pm, feet sweating in dirty clogs and dying to go home and eat ice cream in bed. Next course: redemption. Calamari a la Romana… mmm. Little towers of calamari and fried-ness, somehow separated and elevated. More molecular gastronomy magic; in making more out of something, in finding new in old. A base of calamari something-er-other, topped by little crisps, the delightful flavor of fried-ness. Yum. The saltiness then cleared up by a little campari bonbon, a waxy orb that you popped in your mouth for a sip of bitter campari. Ok then, here’s us, on our sixth amuse bouche: mussels. A mother of pearl spoon, a black “shell” made of agar-agar, and a marinated mussel made into the very best version of itself. This was the kind of dish I liked best, the ones with a recognizable, good, familiar, beloved component, made all the more interesting and tasty with the tricks of the trade. No need to emulsify the mussel beyond recognition, let it be, make it better.

Then an oyster…as if I didn’t love oysters enough already. Here’s a perfect specimen, surrounded by melon juice, brightened up with “cucumber, celery, apple, lime, oxalis ocetosella, melon flowers, and heartleaf iceplant.” I tasted: oyster, melon, yum. (This is the part where I start to get really tired of typing, and we’re on the second course.) Next: cherry soup. A couple teaspoons of gingery cherry matrix with a gelled cherry, infinitely thin slices of cherry, and, you know, smoked sardines. Again; odd, but good. Again; elevating and playing on the simple goodness of a ripe cherry, making it a thousand times more interesting. Next, another soup, black olive gazpacho with a little orb of green olive ice cream resting in the middle of the bowl, topped by a crispy little black olive fritter. Then my least favorite course: a slab of white asparagus ice cream covered and filled with truffle. So if “comfort food” is the little trend that irks me most in the regular food world, ice creams play the same irritating, overdone role in the land of molecular gastronomy. It was not really so yummy. I like a little dash of cold savory ice cream to liven up a dish, like in the gazpacho, but a whole hunk of salty ice cream; no. Also, again with the truffles, I am not in the fan club.

After that though; redemption. “A whole king prawn.” Reminded me of the raw bodies/fried heads combo at Walrus. A perfectly–lightly–cooked prawn body flanked by dots of pungent prawn head essence, crispy legs, and a pile of black briny fluff, described as “kind prawn sand.” Again (again), a familiar, loved ingredient, brought into a whole new world. Then something kind of, normal. A tiny filet of sea bream with a colorful smattering of vegetable bits and a spoonful of yuzu jam. Light. Nice. A nice break for the brain. “Oh, fish. I know about this!”

Another fish course: salt cod “tripe” (that’s what it says… do fish have intestines, am I an idiot, or did they put the menu through Google Translate? I’m not sure.) with salt cod foam (we were waiting for the token molecular gastronomy foam!), in a teeny sea of olive oil and honey soup. The salt cod, not my favie, but the broth; delight. (We’re getting close people.)

THEN: suckling pig. So, so, so very far from the hunk of crisp-skinned pork on top of rice, doused with sambal and balanced on a banana-leaf plate of Ubud, Bali. Here we have: five perfect squares of crackly pig skin, surrounded by multicolored dots of mango, melon, and beet reductions. When the dish arrived, our waitress poured a creamy Riesling sauce over each of our dishes. Yum. (Speaking of Riesling, we had beautiful wine pairings, which I do not have the typing abilites to discuss. Also: more interested in the food.)

Okay: red mullet, a just-barely-not-sushi-anymore filet, with the tail still attached, in a simple little sauce. Three little flavor-pop gnocci-type-blobs alongside for the ride. Then the “smoke” course that I’d read so much about about online. Our dishes arrived with glass toppers, which were removed with a flourish, letting out a big waft of smoke, revealing the lamb breast (!!) and sweetbreads (!!) and morels (!!) inside. Three of my dearest favorites…. Here’s another little corner of the molecular gastronomy world: just doing normal dishes perfectly. Seeing as there’s about half an ounce of lamb on the plate, so it’d better be stellar. No redemptive second bites to be had. Last dinner course, we’re in the home stretch here, and it’s about midnight: pigeon liver. Yep. With curry-caramelized walnuts (not unlike JJ’s famous crack nuts) and juniper and orange. Totally delicious, even though it was the very rare-cooked organ of a ratty bird. DESSERT. First up, a blown-sugar “apricot” filled with apricot cream, and a little “pit” of vanilla ice cream resting alongside. And a teeny slice of real-live, normal, un-fiddled-with apricot, just to remind us what it was really all about. (The faux-ricot was infinitely more delicious, of course.)

Then “strawberries and cream,” a little cylinder of strawberry sorbet surrounded by a tube of milky stuff, ringed by a spiral of hard candy. Looked like something out of an old fashioned candy case; tasted a bit like it too. The teeny little mountain strawberries were the best part of the dish.

Then a little anise mille-feuille sammie of coffee ice cream and mocha foam. Anise + coffee is an unexpectedly fantastical combo. Then, what we’d all been waiting for, the dessert cart. A veritable little rainbow cart of all sorts of good things; madelines, financiers, truffles, pates de fruit…. We all got weensy little ice cream cones, served in stone bowls, propped up by cocoa chips. Then a gold platter of gorgey mignardises. My favorites: perfect cherries made even better, coated in some ultra-cherry gel, teeny madelines, and teeny financiers. Two of my favorite pastries…in miniature. Thank god in miniature, because I was getting real real full.

By this time it’s one am, and none of us were really sure what to do. Asking for the check seemed something that mere mortals eating dumb mortal food do… But no, even the most intellectual meals aren’t free. They anticipated the inevitable requet and brought us all keepsake menus, then, best of all, they asked us “Would we like to see the kitchen?” But in Castellano, so I heard fnsgkjnasgbbf cocina? Whether this was standard or special treatment, we’re not sure, but I’m going to pretend it was special. We slid through the automatic white Star Wars door back into the kitchen, and I did me best to exude my I AM ONE OF YOU vibes, tried to look like I was incredibly familiar with all the stainless steel and rubber mats and whites and all, but I’m not sure how well it went. After running crying from the last kitchen I ever worked in, I’m pretty sure I’ve lost all my kitchen cred. Still. Joan Roca was incredibly cool, I think. Couldn’t understand a lick of what he said. Tried to muster up something incredibly foodie and witty to casually say to him over my shoulder as we walked out, something about the Modernist Cuisine folks in my own city coming to his restaurant, something about one of his many cookbooks on display, but I got star-chef-struck and I can’t speak Spanish and I just skittered off like a regular awed diner. Number one observation about the kitchen of a crazy, uber-succesful Spanish molecular gastronomy kitchen: not really all that different than a regular old American resto kitchen. Bigger, cleaner, more gadgets (and a signed Messi jersey). Same tables, mats, ranges, ovens. mitts.

Overall: a really, truly amazing meal. So much more effort goes into this kind of food than your regular restaurant fare. I feared that it wouldn’t have the heart that my favorite “regular” restaurants have, but with that kind of effort and dedication, you know there’s got to be some serious love and excitement behind it all. Food like this takes so much manual labor, so much practicing and planning and failed testing that the squadron of chefs holed up back behind that Star Wars door has got to be in love with what they’re doing, or they’d rip their sous vide cookers out of the wall and pack up and head home to make mac and cheese. One of the chefs still piecing together desserts at one am when we got to pop into the kitchen was from California–so far from home, out in the Catelonian boonies… he’s there for a reason. Can Roca isn’t my second best restaurant in my world, but it certainly deserves it’s place. It’s an experience: the food is mind-bending, but still food, still human sustenance (at some level) which makes it even more bendy. The service is stellar. The fact that it’s in a lovely old, old city helps too. I’m so glad to have went, to have put these crazy science experiments in my mouth. I get the Modernist Cuisine cult of food nerdity now, I get why taking food, things that come from the earth, from plants and animals, and making them into teensy little artistic creations that serve double duty as food (and amazing food at that) is totally, completely, overwhelmingly thrilling. Thanks Ross & Cesca.

Even though Seattle is a fun, interesting, happening city, once you live somewhere it kinda becomes just where you live, where you get stuck in traffic and buy boring groceries and sleep. So you have to have your parents come visit every once in a while, so you can pretend that you’re on vacation in your very own city. M & D came over for the weekend and we went right into Larkwood travel mode. Aka: All meals out and much coffee drinking and pastry eating. Day One: obligatory Pike Place visit and lunch at Cafe Campagne. Much walking. Then. Dinner. It was tricky picking just two restaurants to take my beloved P’s to… pasta at a Stowell joint? Revel, my Korean favie? The winners: Walrus and the Carpenter and Sitka and Spruce. First up, Walrus. No rezzos, and I knew there’d be a wait. We showed up at 6. 2 hours they said. Not willing to give up the promise of a bowl of icy oysters, we waited it out at Bastille down the way, slowly slowly eating a little plate of rabbit pate and pretending that we were really still deciding if we’d stay for dinner. The call finally came for us and we scurried back to our hard-won table. First order of business, oysters. Yum. A dozen and a half, four different kinds. Yum. Briny bliss. Here we are, in blurry oyster-slurping form. (Are you supposed to use those dumb weensy forks? A good portion of the joy is the somewhat sandy shell slurp…)

And what else: bread and olive oil and butter and olives. A weensy wedge of Dinah’s cheese, which I have to say was good, but just in a regular ol’ buttery brie way. Then the real business: grilled sardines with a walnut gremolata kinda thang. Sheesh, sardines, where have you been hiding? Meaty and fishy in a good way. And I secretly love eating whole bony fish…something nice about that weird little calcium crunch. Speck with ricotta and candied pumpkin and balsamic. Candied as in pumpkin candy, not as in sweet-ish pumpkin. Awesome. A salad of watercress and lardons and fried egg. Egg yolk, extra points. My favorite dish: raw prawns with their roe alongside their deep-fried shells. Raw prawn? Yes. Fantastic. Snappy roe, just-tough-enough shrimp, ultra salty crunchy weird shell. Da bomb. And then, just for good measure, two more oysters each for Dad and I, just to make sure we really knew our favorite. (Treasure Coves from Case Inlet.) Then dessert, because, you know, we’re on vacation here. A cherry clafoutis, which was good, but erm… ours was better that one time we made it. Not quite custardy enough. But hey, covered in creme fraiche so pretty durn good. And roasted dates, which somehow remained about two trillion degrees for twenty minutes. Really yummy, once they cooled to the temp of just molten lava, roasted and caramely in salt and oil–definitely stealing that one. Walrus: worth the wait.

The next day: well, I’ll lay it out for you. Macrina for breakfast, Homegrown for lunch, Sitka for dinner. And Le Pichet for dessert. Ok, here we go. Macrina: I had a morning glory muffin and two perfect sunnyside up eggs. Dad had yogurt and fruit and granola. (He hadn’t realized that he was indeed, on vacation, and should take advantage by having french toast and bacon.) Mom got the salmon bialy, hands down the best thing on the brunch menu. We had a great waitress who kept getting cursed with whiny (“Are the eggs cooked with oil? Is the toast buttered? Is there sugar in the chocolate cake? Could you bring me just one slice of cucumber and an ice cube?”) tables and I tried my best to send her good vibes. After that we moved north to the Seattle Center for the King Tut exhibit which should in fact be re-named “The Exhibit of Egyptian Crap that does not include King Tut. Or his sarcophagus. Or his mask that is on every poster around the whole city.” Ok, there was some good stuff, but there were also a lot of brats running around and NO KING TUT. No mummy. Nothin. Some fans and wicker chairs from his crappy little cave-tomb. I might be bitter. But then we went to Homegrown for lunch and things looked up. Dad and I got turkey avocado bacons and mom got a killer Reuben. And we each got a really yummy pickle. And then I bought an old wood heating grate at the market, which is cooler than any dumb ol’ mummy anyway. Then we had to go home and take naps because we had a big dinner ahead of us.

So Sitka and Spruce. I have been dying to go for, oh, like, a year. And Matt Dillon, the chef, just won a James Beard. (He also has The Corson Building, my number one dream must go to resto at the moment, and a farm and a cute little bar. And everything good.) I was not on top of things and by the time I called, we could only get in at 6. Which was fine. Because the light is better at 6.

S&S has probably the most open kitchen on earth. I literally could’ve reached over and snacked on their mise en place. And I was tempted. The two chefs have a big deep sink where the cold ingredients are iced down and a nice big workspace, which is just a continuation of the long table we were sitting at. And a big wood fire. As you do. We kicked it off with bread (thanks to them, foccacia has a new place in my heart) and salami and olives. Shortly thereafter a salad of bright little lettuces and shaved asparagus and carrots and the best sheep’s cheese I’ve ever had. Ever. See ya Manchego, I have a new best friend. And farm-to-table, fresh, blah blah; that salad seriously had that magic taste that only things from your own garden has. (The Dillon farm/resto family is in fact the creator of the best CSA ever created…and the most expensive, but now I’m thinking it might be worth it…)

Then the mains. Rabbit leg, roasted on that fire, and sturgeon. Both with emmer (a grain…I didn’t know either) and turnip greens and yogurt and maybe a little hit of mustard with the rabbit and paprika with the fish. So simple and SO perfect. Lord. Thoughtful and homey and good. Nothing out of place or over-reaching. Everything all nested together and good. Didn’t even cross my mind that maybe it was sad that the dishes had the same sides. Cause there’s the cook, right there, making it for you. Keeping it as simple and just right as they would in their own kitchen, cooking for their friends. Then, lord almighty, the desserts. I’ll ease you into it. A simple little Basque gateau. Almond crust, pastry cream, Drizzled with caramel and salty (the salty was the crucial kicker) almonds. Good, lovely, yummy, great. Then. THEN. Wild ginger ice cream with honey. Ginger but not even ginger. It sung of ginseng and brightness and earthiness and sunlight all at once. Drizzled with honey and a handful of slivered almonds. The best thing I’ve tasted in a while.

Then a walk up to the Elysian Brewing Co, then a trip downtown in search of a view, settling (“settling”) for Le Pichet on First where we drank cider and ate delicious cheese at 11 pm. Because we were on vacation.

Did you think that was all? Then we went to Cafe Presse in the morning with Logie, where we all ate variations on the omelette and pastries and delicious housemade yogurt. And I ate almost an entire baguette with butter and rhubarb-vanilla jam. Because….I was on vacation! Stay-cation. Then we popped up to Taylor Shellfish where mom packed up a few pounds of clams and oysters to take home and we went for a walk at the beach at Discovery Park then they had to go home before the oysters got tired and next thing I knew the vacation was over, dangit. But how lucky am I, to have these parents who’ll take me out to dinner (around the world) and put up with my food rambling and even join in the rambling with me, wondering how, how!? does a raw prawn taste so dang good.

I love Vancouver. When I first moved there, I did not. I thought that Canadians were weird and putting on fake accents to irritate me specifically and everything was ridiculously more expensive and my university campus was bigger then the town I grew up in and looked like Lenin picked the architect for half the buildings. Aka, I was really lonesome the second my dad left and I feared for a friendless semester in a just-foreign enough to be even more lonesome country. But things perked up pretty quickly. Good and plentiful Asian food, a somewhat ugly campus situated in maybe one of the most beautiful places on the continent, a constant pizza-eating TV-watching girl party in my giant packed-like-sardines house, a fun garden internship, tons of yoga and biking home from yoga at sunset in a bliss state, my favorite coffee shop in the whole wide world (and the best muffins in the whole wide world,) and a volunteer gig at the UBC garden with kids, where I met Nicole, yet another fantastic friend I’ve been lucky enough to snag along the way. This weekend I popped back up to BC for a weekend visit, and lucked out with the warmest loveliest sunniest weekend of all time. Nicole and I walked and walked and talked and talked and ate and ate and ate. Nicole took us to Via Tevere, a impossibly cute Neapolitan pizza place just off Commercial Drive, tucked into a neighborhoody little street– like it just so happened to have landed there. Nicole said I’d love it; she was so right. Cozy and tasty and good in so many ways. I keep getting so lucky with friends– I meet these fantastic people and we have the bright friendships that keep on keepin’ on even after we’re apart. And they become a big part of my fuzzy memory-imagination of the places I’ve lived, which is wonderful.

And this pizza, it too is now a part of my own dreamy version of Vancouver. All Neapolitan pizza is amazing. This was really amazing. For one, the place was toasty, which only seemed appropriate as there’s a 900 degree oven smack in the middle. Sweaty pizzaiolos throw together the pies and slide em in for 90 seconds a piece, the pizzas reemerging like phoenixes from the fires, ashy and amazing. We got: one with cheese, cherry tomatoes, and basil, a margherita plus broccoli rabe, and a fantastic one with spicy Italian meats. Yum. The crusts were maybe the best part, dipped in spicy oil… Yes. We ate the leftovers with much much joy later on.

The next day: brunch at Dunlevy Snackbar. Mother’s Day brunch traffic? Not an issue here. Too hip for regular moms. A rad little Chinatown storefront (Note: Vancouver’s Chinatown is not like Seattle’s “International District” where takeout boxes blow down the street like tumbleweed and the same Peking ducks have been hanging in the windows since 1995. Vancouver’s is bustling and lively and full of shocking dried things and pungent fish shops and old ladies haggling.)

And then Dunlevy Snackbar, full of true Van Hipsters. But in a good way. It still feels like a “find,” like you too are awesome for being there. The owner, Theo, is running around the place, making coffee, taking orders, and giving you the verbal menu. Three choices. Euro Brunch, arepas, or baked eggs. What a rad idea. Only one meal a day, only three things a day. Makes picking easy, makes prepping easy. Makes changing the menu really easy. Keeps things interesting. For us: one Euro brunch, one arepa. Do you loyal readers remember arepas? The dance party break snack of Florida, bought from a young couple frying up masa with one hand and feeding a baby with the other in a dorm kitchen. Arepas, griddled corn cakes topped with a slice of guava paste and a slice of white cheese and a big dose of pure joy. Dunlevy of course did it differently: topped the corn cake with chipotle black beans and potatoes and scrambled eggs, accompanied by a bright little carrot slaw. Yum.

And the Euro brunch. Ok, so my favorite part of Germany is frühstück. Breakfast. At the oddball little hotel we always stay at in Frankfurt (frequent flier miles get you to Frankfurt…) theres this glorious place called the fruhstuck raum. Fruhstuck fairies fill it every morning before dawn with baskets of fluffy white buns covered in seeds, platters of holey cheese, plates of smoky meats, soft boiled eggs, joghurts of all varieties, a tray of sausages, and all the teeny Nutella containers you could ever dream of stealing. You fill up a plate (or three, if you’re me. Hey, you don’t get a trip to the Fruhstuck Raum too often) and sit down and delight–delight–in the German version of breakfast.

Dunlevy’s take was pretty darn similar. A soft-boiled egg (which I am going to make a part of my life, if only for the ultra cute egg cups,) rye bread, a croissant, jam, cheese, ham, fruit, almonds, olives, and hummus. Inclusive of all the EU nations. Delicious. And we had a good chat with Theo after, and what makes you feel cooler than a chat with the owner. Dunlevy Snackbar, also now a part of my version of Vancouver. Then we spent the afternoon at the beach in Kitsilano, my old ‘hood, making bracelets and saying over and over how good the sun felt on our cold little northwestern bodies. After a delicious little front porch barbeque to round out the day, I headed back down to Seattle, dreaming of Vancouver the whole way back.

Lunch today: gnocchi with braised nettles and pork, spaghetti with anchovies and tomato and breadcrumbs, and garganelli with olives and mushrooms. And paté. And my sweet parent-friend-who-I’ve-made-my-friend (and perhaps most devoted AC follower) JJ. We met for lunch at the tiny pasta mecca I’ve been reading about, Il Corvo, a fresh pasta project housed in a gelato shop. Procopio Gelateria by sunny day, Il Corvo by rainy afternoon. Home of just three fresh pasta dishes a day, made by hand each morning, devoured by dedicated masses by 2 or 3. (Il Corvo = The Crow, as Joan- “I speak enough Italian to ask the waitress for a table far away from the loud smoking Germans” -Jones, told me wisely … though I guess a person clever-er than I could’ve figured it out from giant crow on the sign.)

We debated what to order at the counter, and were pretty much instantly convinced by the three-man restaurant team to go ahead, why not!, order all three! Plus a little paté, just in cases. First, the paté. Perhaps the best paté ever. Also, I was starving and I have been making a good faith effort to eat healthy junk all week. Aka, kale and barley instead of grilled cheese dunked in Sriracha and a couple of dark chocolate peanut butter cups on the side. So white bread and pig, yes please. (Also, I went to a pig…erm…slaughter demo this weekend, and I’ve been weirdly…erm…craving pork. More on that soon.)

Shortly after the pate, three plates slid across the counter and a nod came our way. It’s your turn for pasta bliss, the pasta man with the awesomely rockabilly hair said with his look. Here is some logic for ya: pasta is good, fresh pasta is better, cold days makes you want pasta. All this came together right here for us real, real nicely. The spaghetti: clearly so reliant on olive oil, but somehow light too. Just fishy enough, brightened with just enough parsley. Given texture with breadcrumbs. Cooked just enough, so the pasta held that stiff fresh pasta bite-back.

The garganelli: (Do you know what that is? We did not. It is squares of pasta with ridges on one side rolled into tubes. The ridges hold the sauce, the tubes hold more sauce. Behold, the genius of Italian-ism) with slices of the most gigantic black olives I’ve ever seen or even imagined, with thinly sliced mushrooms (just enough mushroms to give it that good mushroom taste, which I love, but not enough that you could feel the mushroom texture, which I hate) in a slightly tangy tomato sauce. Just enough sauce too, that every pasta piece was perfect, and there was only tablespoons of precious flavor left at the end for bread-sopping.

Then, friends, the gnocchi. Tiny, tender, sweet. The babies of the pasta community, cuddly and lovable. With once-stinging nettles braised into yummy submission and salty pork shredded to goodness, little bits of crispy roastedness remaining. We loved it all. Beauty. And always so lovely to be with someone from home when you’re away from home. A sweet piece of Idaho (albeit a Canadian piece) here in rainland.

And, you know, pasta. The whole meal was perfect in its just-enough-ness, I’m realizing. Three pastas for two people would be crazy talk at pretty much any other Italian restaurant. Here, no. Go ahead and order the whole menu. You will leave warm and happily full, not stuffed with starch, just cozied with carbs. And the food itself, the just-enough-ness. Just enough perfectly trimmed little leaves of parsley. Just enough sauce, just enough pasta. Just so. And the place itself, just hidden enough that it feels special and secret. Yes. I love Il Corvo. And it is just a mere five minutes from my office. The healthy kick is over.

I did some serious lunch-ing this week. Little Uncle on Wednesday, then Bitterroot BBQ on Thursday (which was photographically neglected… return visit necessary) and Le Pichet today. After reading and reading about Bitterroot’s opening (and hungrily mentioning it a bajillion times in Met blog posts) I had to go. Met with a sweet new friend for a light lunch of: buffalo chicken livers, kale, cornbread, and a half rack a’ ribs. Lawdy. I thought I had experienced good barbeque in my quasi-Southern Florida life, but no. Nope. This was a whole world better. The chicken livers were… buffalo wings but with livers instead of wings. Crispy, spicy. Countered with a delightfully dressed little mini-salad of bright greens and lemony mayo-ish dressing. Then the kale, always a winner. With bacon, double winner. And… I have such a gigantic soft spot for cornbread. I crave it every time I think of it. During the snowstorm that forced us all inside to stuff ourselves, I used a half-cup of chili as an excuse to eat about six cornbread muffins. Cornbread, my sweet. And then the crowning glory of our ladylike lunch: RIBS. Oh; yes. I am kind of getting the food equivalent of misty nostalgia about them, just a day later. Caramelized to a crunchy, maple-y crust on the outside, incredibly tender and rich and mmm-I-can’t-even-think-of-a-good-enough-word on the inside. We both kind of did a how-can-that-taste-that-good double take, then polished ’em off. The waitress kept trying to take our bone-strewn tray away, but we shooed her off till we gnawed off every little rib remnant, talking about restaurants and food and all the while. Then I went to yoga and spent the entire class wondering if I could maybe go back to Bitterroot for dinner.

Then today: Le Pichet, the 1st Ave cousin of Cafe Presse, home to the best omelet in the city. The two other new-girl interns and I decided it was high time we all had lunch together. Plus, we’re all January babies, so we had to celebrate. So up to Pichet we trekked, taking a place at a sunny little table in the sweetly bustling and surprisingly truly Paris-y little cafe.

Thankfully, all of us are sharers, so I didn’t have to go through the agony of choosing one little thing off the menu. For us three workin'(ish… if you aren’t paid can it count as work?) girls: calamari, pork belly, and a charcuterie plate. The calamari, light and airy and one of my favorite things on earth, atop its opposite, the earthy lentil, all lightened by lemon. Pork belly, cooked into crispiness, set atop a haystack of bright celery root, squash, and greens. Then the charcuterie, all delicious, especially the terrines and pates. Smooshed onto slices of delightfully airy white baguette (…with butter). And then a roasted pear brioche, to cap it off. Obviously.

Jessie and Amanda, my intern compatriots, in blurry form.

I have been dreaming of Revel for a long, long time. I read about it in my usual pre-move restaurant lurk session; I read about it almost every day in my perusing of all things Seattle food while being an intern. Best Restaurant, Best New Restaurant, Best Dish. I wanted it. Dumplings, rice bowls, noodles, savory pancakes, KIMCHI. Yes. I needed it. I finally had it. Genia (my foodie sidekick) very sweetly took me out for a night-before-birthday dinner. (Food is the best gift.) Too scared of the icy hills to drive, we bus-trekked from our respective neighborhoods through the snowy “wonderland” that is slush-and-ice-plagued Seattle all the way to Fremont to get ourselves some Korean fusion.

First off: the corned lamb salad, which I never would have normally ordered (especially when there’s salad nicoise up for grabs…) but I saw about ten go out while I read the menu, and they looked dang good. Leftover steak salad’s swanky cousin. Mizuna, see-through thin radishes, falling-apart-tender salty corned lamb, and really really spicy hot dressing. By really spicy hot I mean straight chopped little green chilies hot. By really hot I mean G had to ask for a glass of milk hot. By really hot I mean my Sriracha-loving self was feeling the burn hot. Hot. (But in a good way.)

Then the shrimp and bacon dumplings, which I had dreamed of most (shrimp dumplings are my number one favorite dim sum item) were sadly the least interesting. Just dumplings. Good, not great, Genia and I decided. But next up the mussel pancake, with fennel and coconut. Sounds funky, was delicious. Salty, crispy, sea-y. With the tangy pickled fennel, yeah.

Then the rice bowl: white rice topped with spicy kimchi-ed daikon, lemony greens, and heaven-sent short ribs. Genia and I agreed white rice is such a simple, delicious treat (since we force ourselves to love brown rice the rest of the time.) The daikon was cruncy, the short ribs were killer, the greens were a welcome change from the fried goodness. Topped with little spoonfuls of all the condiments–ginger soy sauce, spicy fish sauce, chili sauce, red bean paste.

Then, stuffed, we debated dessert, coming to the obvious conclusion: Yes. And soon a sweet little bell jar was in our lives: red velvet cheese cake, made pink and earthy with beets, nestled in a crumbly walnut crust. “Really too full for dessert” thoughts faded away quickly. Sweetness. I am developing a terrible sweet tooth. Last weekend I had a cinnamon roll and a waffle for brunch. I cannot stop buying Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups. I walk by the Pike Place muffin guy every morning on the way to work and just “have” to buy a muffin. And to top off all this sweetness in my world, Genia gave me a packet of dark chocolate Tim Tams, sweet sweet Aussie gold. And just a little more sweetness, my sweet new roommate Laura baked me a carrot cake birthday cake, topped with almond flowers. Sweetness abounds.

Since Seattle has pretty much stopped functioning with the snow, I was misled by bus schedules and after dinner I found myself waiting for a bus that would never come. So I tromped on home, over the river and through the woods, up a lot of hills and through a lot of slush puddles, thankful for my Idahoan blood. The walk was sweet in its own way–there’s that weird lovely pink snow-glow outside and everyone has their makeshift sleds out, careening down the closed streets. And pretty train track shadows:

Sometimes, eating alone is sad. Sometimes, it’s not. When you’ve got three chefs and house-made charcuterie for company, not so much. I wondered where to go for my solo dinner in Montreal, debated a classic French meal at a famous bistro, a light vegetarian meal after the days of amazing indulgence (more on that later), but settled on Le Comptoir, only a 20 minute walk away and oh, just voted into the top 10 restaurants in Canada.

Crossed my fingers and called for a spot at the bar, got a harried yesofcourse, and trotted on down to Rue Saint Laurent. Took my spot at the bar, a ringside seat for the kitchen drama unfolding right there in front of me. Three chefs, one dishwasher, and an array of extraordinarily hip waitstaff diving and ducking and twirling around each other, plating perfect dish after perfect dish, carefully measuring out slices of sopressata, stacking bright tomatoes atop one another, calling out for service, whisking the food off to the awed spectators. I started with a glass of organic Greek red wine (number one reason I like Canada), chosen by my waiter and guide through the all-French menu scrawled up on the wall. Then a plate of charcuterie—a must, seeing as they make the stuff right downstairs.

Soppresata, fennel sausage, chorizo, pig’s head (Yes. And explained by my Francophone waiter, “This is of the pig’s whole head, cooked and chopped.” And yes, shockingly good.), and a little rectangle of terrine. With a healthy dab of house-made mustard, a couple perfect little pickles, and a big hunk of pickled fennel. Took me a while to work my way through all the pork, but I made it to the other side for my next blissful course: poelee de chanterelles, langue de porc braisee, mini raviolis a la puree de racine de persil. I could pick out “chanterelles” and “pork” and “ravioli” on my own, and I was pretty much sold. Then once I got the full translation and realized pork tongue was up for grabs, I was super sold. I love weird animal bits. If anything was to convince me of divinity in this world, it’d be foie gras. Sweetbreads make me want to sing, bone marrow makes me want to dance. I always, always go for the lengua from the sketchy taco trucks. Pig tongue at the 8th best restaurant in Canada? Yes please.

Another glass of wine, this one a French red, arrived along with my bowl of heaven, chosen and explained in great, kinda indecipherable detail by my very knowledgeable waiter. And then the braised tongue, incredibly tender and perfect alongside the earthy mushroom and rich sauce. (And I swear they were morels…or maybe it was all so good that I just went ahead an hallucinated an once more of goodness…) And perfect little raviolis, all in a sauce of the gods, topped with a very necessary cloud of greenery, just bitter enough to cut the richness of it all. I’m not a very slow eater, in fact, a little bit of a scarf-er, but I savored that dish for a very solid twenty minutes.

Added to the flavors of the plate and the perfectly-picked wine was the joy of watching the three cooks practice their craft; the pantry man careful and deliberate with his many many mixing bowls, the broiler-grill duo wielding hot pans, coloring plates with sauces, timing a million things in their minds. Such a delight to watch this goodness come into being, to watch people do something they’re really truly good at. And a tiny bit of melancholy envy, mostly of their focus and their clear satisfaction. I miss that little jolt of joy when you see a row of perfect dishes ready to enter into the world, made by your own hands. But I got over my little pang when I noticed that all the glorious chefs were sweating like mad, wiping their brows on dirty kitchen towels and sneaking sips of wine out of water glasses. Then I snapped back to reality and relished my position on the other side of the counter.

I hadn’t noticed the dessert menu drawn up on the wall behind me, and hadn’t planned on dessert, with my double pork, double wine meal. But they had panna cotta. Panna cotta, compote de pommes, a la feve tonka, puree de date, sable Breton aux pecans. Apples…dates…cookies…tonka? Not so sure. And it was explained to my little English-only brain, but it was loud and I was in a pre-panna cotta haze, so I just nodded. And maybe drooled. The panna cotta arrived in a little glass, just like Mom makes; just like how its supposed to be. Jelled cream topped with something fruity. Pure, bright bliss. I love panna cotta because it manages to be rich and refined. It’s straight cream, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s the girl you never knew was uber wealthy till you spied her beautiful shoes. It’s quietly decadent. It’s the best. “Was it what you were dreaming of?” my waiter asked. Yes, yes, yes. The pure creaminess cut with the warmth of the apple and date, the silkyness contrasted by the snappy sable. I lingered for a good while longer over my panna cotta and last little milliliters of wine, not wanting to leave the glow of the kitchen, of cooking, of good food, of people all delighting in creating and eating and drinking and savoring and sharing.

But here’s the walk home:

<a href=””><img alt=”Le Comptoir on Urbanspoon” src=”; style=”border:none;width:104px;height:15px” /></a>

Michy’s got a lot of hype. Famous Iron Chef lady, hip little restaurant, really good food, foie gras and waffles… hype. Did not live up to the hype. Situated in a funky mini strip mall north of downtown, you have to pay five dollars for valet parking. Valet parking in the lot where you pull in. Like, pull in, hand over keys, watch Mr. Valet drive ten yards. Ok, working through it, you can have a jerky valet system if your food rocks. Enter restaurant. Overwhelming girly, with big beachy shell-chandeliers and bright orange and blue wallpaper, lots of shiny things and cutesily mismatched floral bits. Ok, I can get over your weirdo decor for some bomb foods. We read over the menu, feeling a little on stage in the kinda too-open dining room, surrounded by suited Miami business types, then ordered the ceviche and pork belly for apps. Ceviche: very very good. White fish, shrimp, and calamari in a somehow creamy, spicy, smooth sauce, with little cubes of sweet potato and big Peruvian corn-nuts. Really good. Things are looking up. Next, pork belly. Pork belly sounds so hip and tasty, “pork belly… so hot right now.”

Um, so, it’s a big hunk of pork fat. Maybe better repurposed into things for a porky flavor (Jamie O’s lasagna…) but in big two-inch chunks, a little overpowering in the fat department. Especially when these big hunks o’ pig are situated in salty broth with salty soba noodles and salty clams. So, a hit and a miss so far. Entrees arrive. Dad a Florida bouillabaisse, Mom carbonara, Anne prawns and pasta. According to Dad’s report, the bouillabaisse was unimpressive and creepily beefy. The carbonara was good, but extraordinarily ridiculously rich. Mine was tasty, big prawns in a slightly spicy tomato-y seafood broth with sheet pasta and kale. Good. A little unwieldy, having to craft little pasta-prawn parcels out of antennaed creatures, but good. But… not rocking my little socks like Yelp promised me. Dessert menu came, and unimpressed, we passed and were quickly ushered along on our way. “Thank you, yes, come again, ok, bye now.” My dream dinners are slow slow slow, two hours of conversation and happy eating, but Michy’s was all said and done in an hour and fifteen. Disappointing, I said to the smiling portrait of Michy herself as I walked out the back door to pay five dollars to watch a guy walk twenty feet to my car.

(This may be the first mean thing on Annacotta… I feel kinda bad, but it was fun to use new adjectives.)

But then we went back to Miami Beach and kinda snuck into the Fontainebleau and had drinks in their super uber maximum hip lobby bar, which was perfectly Miami-esque and rockin’ and made us feel a bit better about the world after our less than satisfactory dinner.

Drinking my ten-dolla OJ & Seltzer at the FB.