Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Goldfinch Tavern - Seattle

To say I've been looking forward to this restaurant opening is an understatement.  I adore Ethan Stowell establishments, and when I read about the effort put into the perfect french fries, I hoped it would be open for our anniversary.  For our rehearsal dinner, a short twelve years ago, I was dying to have steak and fries for dinner.  Of course my stomach was in too big of a knot that I actually had a bowl of rice, so since then, I've tried to make a point to have steak and fries on the anniversary of our rehearsal dinner every year.  Enter:  Goldfinch Tavern.  It checks so many boxes.  

Goldfinch Tavern is located in the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Seattle, in the former space of ART.  It goes without saying, the place is beautiful.  Check out the view from our table.  I'll admit it was maybe a little sweaty with the sun beaming in on me, but the view was so lovely that I did not utter a complaint.

Are you kidding me?  I live here, friends. 
Cheers to twelve years of martial bliss! 
Dear Ben wanted to skip the oysters, but I know how very much he loves oysters, and I could not let him pass them up.  Goldfinch has some great oyster options too.  He chose the Penn Cove, Chelsea Gem, and Virginica.  They were out of Penn Coves, and he really didn't care which ones he got, so he said, "Surprise me.".... so they did.  The large one, and the one dressed up in the pic with the red wine mignonette and peppercorn ice, is a Pacific.  This was his favorite of the three, and I can't remember the rest.  

We asked our fabulous server about his favorites from each section of the menu.  The beef tartare was one that he noted, and this was on my radar during the countless times I had studied this menu before arriving. The cucumber relish is what you see atop the beef, and though that sounds simple enough, it was truly much more extraordinary.  I'm finding that so much lately.  Less is more is not just a trite saying your dad says.  I mean, it also comes drizzled with a 12-year scotch, and four thick slices of grilled bread, so this is not merely a simple dish, by any means. Light, fresh, ... I didn't want to seem too eager, but I was.

The Fried Castelvetranos were also on my radar. I don't like chewing around the pit, but I understand this makes it a better olive - and certainly better for frying.  I liked it, but felt all right about offering Dear Ben the last few.

I so, so, so wanted the Hamachi Crudo with chevril and red onion, but guess what?  Dear Ben does not like goat cheese and onions.  So, I took one for the team, and we ordered the Ahi Tuna Poke.  Before you feel sorry for me not getting my first choice, our server shared that he had arrived at restaurant around 2pm that day and saw the kitchen crew cutting the fish a part.  It was fresh.  It was terrific.  Again, no-frills and simply prepared.  There was nothing standing in the way of the raw flavor of the tuna.  No fried wonton strips or chips, just seaweed, a touch of ponzu, paper-thin radish curls, and a sprinkle with sesame seeds. 

The Babe wanted the burger.  He did not want the "kid" burger, but insisted on the adult burger.  A half pound of beef?  Sure, our 5-year old can do it. He asked for the Beechers cheese and housemade pickles to come on the burger, but wanted the onion marmalade on the side - he hears his dad talk about not liking onions too much, perhaps.  Let me just tell you, this burger is amazingly delicious.  Peppery and flavorful. We stole a few bites, and from the look on Dear Ben's face, it looked like he was starting to second guess our order...

... then he tasted the Chef's favorite cut, the Mishima Ranch Wagyu Beef Culotte.

The same spicy pepperiness, with a black currant sauce, tangy wilted greens, and simply fried artichoke hearts. I can't imagine anyone eating the whole portion if you're taking advantage of other parts of this menu, so it's great for sharing.  Of course, we chose the fries for our steak-and-fries-tradition, and they really are stand-out.  I think the Babe's fries were better, ours could have used just one extra minute in the fryer, but life is still pretty great from where we sit.  I don't usually like dill seasoning, so don't be turned off by the "dill fries" in the name.  They have a subtle dill flavor, but the crispy outside and soft inside, make it a site to be beholded - errr, tasted.

Goldfinch Tavern embodies the word "tavern."  It's not just a place where alcoholic beverages are sold, but a place where people from all walks of life can feel comfortable.  Wear your Kate Spade dress or your Levi jeans, and you'll be genuinely welcomed to enjoy the ambiance and fabulous Pacific Northwest fare.  I'm hard to please, but this place is special.  Way to go, Chef Stowell and Chef Ritchie!  Can't wait to continue working my way through the menu while enjoying one of the best views in the city.

*Dined Friday June 26

Monday, June 29, 2015

Loulay - Seattle

I had a friend from my teaching days who just raved about the Chef in the Hat. She loves him, you could see it on her face, and I love that kind of passion about food.  So, I tried Luc, and it was cozy, then life got in the way, and it took so very long to finally make it to Chef in the Hat's latest endeavor, Loulay.  I totally missed the boat on Rover.  

Looks like my school friend isn't the only one who thinks the Chef in the Hat is pretty great:  Seattle Met named it the Best Restaurant of 2014, Thrillist lists it in the Top 21 restaurants nationwide and included the Loulay burger in their in the Top 10 in 2014, and as if that wasn't enough, Zagat has Loulay as one of the 25 Most Important Restaurants of 2013.  Impressive, for sure.

So, Friend Elaine and I set out on a sunny Seattle day for a lunch date to Loulay.  Loulay is located in the Sheraton Hotel near the convention center in downtown Seattle.  There is easy valet parking, though no self-park is available on site. 


The host was a nice, chatty fellow.  We probably didn't need to know the tidbits he shared as he brought us to our table, but alas, he was friendly, and we like friendly.  Our server, however, was too-cool-for-school.   Her words were nice enough, but her demeanor was a bit aloof and not super helpful.  I guess for a restaurant with such great press, we expected more. 

Since it's lunch, and we have to pick up our kids from school afterward, we went for their non-alcoholic beverage menu.  I get my zen on with the Lotus Flower.  It's made with basil, lime, mint, sage, cucumber, and soda served in a martini glass.  Friend Elaine chose the Citrus-Rise.  This drink combines fresh citrus, cranberry, a splash of tonic, then served up with a sugar-rimmed glass.  Both drinks were lovely, though not inexpensive for the serving size - both $7 each.   The value was further diminished when the server knocked my glass so hard that at least a quarter of the drink spilled over the table and on my clothes. Remember how cool she is?  She's so cool she barely said she was sorry, and a replacement drink was not offered.  Um, not cool. 

Our first course comes out, and the food looks delish. The French Onion Soup, a must-try item in a French restaurant, was bursting with the veal broth flavor and topped with a hat of comté and baguette.  It was good, but Friend Elaine didn't finish her bowl; she thought the cheese was too chewy.  I probably would've finished it for her if I wasn't completely mesmerized by the scallops.  

The scallops came in a deep bowl.  They sat on a shallow pool of thin cream sauce and served with black garlic, beets, arugula, and pickled red onion.  A thing of beauty. They were prepared perfectly medium with a nice sear on the outside.  The combination of flavors and textured shined.  I would've licked the bowl if that weren't frowned upon in public.  

For our second course, Friend Elaine and I split the Bacon Sandwich and the Pastrami Sandwich. They split this up for us and served a simple salad of greens and carrot.  The table was not quite big enough to accommodate both plates.  Maybe these plates should be rethought; good thing we were only a party of two.  

The Bacon Sandwich was my pick of the two. I have a hard time saying no to bacon under any circumstance.  In fact, Friend Sophia says that like death and taxes, she can depend on bacon being a part of any dinner menu when she comes over.  Maybe it's my Arkansas roots, but I do so love bacon.  This bacon was fancy and treś thick.  I prefer crispy bacon, and unfortunately, this bacon was too thick to be crisp, and whole pieces of meat wanted to slide out with every bite.  I could barely taste the harissa jam and arugula.  The combination sounds good in theory, but tasted more like toast with salty, cured pork.  

Friend Elaine chose the Pastrami Sandwich.  While there was more complex flavor in this sandwich, with smoked beef, green cabbage, leek and horseradish aioli, there just wasn't much to it.  Maybe this is how the French stay thin?  Take a look at this sandwich.  Where is the middle?  I ate the middle and left the crust.  I try to use my carbs wisely, and this was just not worth it.  Guess we should've taken the advice of the Thrillist and ordered the burger. 

Both sandwiches were anti-climatic, yet we took he dessert menu.  Boy, am I glad we did!   The desserts made me forget the less than impressive sandwiches. 

We couldn't pick just one, so we went with the Portuguese Beignets and Ice Cream Sandwich.  Friend Elaine also added the Chef's Hot Chocolate.

The Ice Cream Sandwiches were the big winner for Friend Elaine. Frozen Valrhona milk chocolate parfait with cripy malt wafers and a passion fruit coulis.  There were two, which was perfect for sharing. It was delicious, truly delicious, but not quite as good as the beignets. 

Seriously, eating these yummy pillows of goodness remind about how grand life can be. It's perspective, ya'll. The roasted rhubarb was tangy and sweet, like the inside of the pie, and the chilled cylinder of mascarpone mousse provided a clean and buttery finish that completed this dish.  These components worked marvelously together.  Amour! 

Friend Elaine enjoyed the Chef's Hot Chocolate, but we didn't read the menu carefully, so she was not expecting the toasted brioche and the smear of salted butter.  You know when you're expecting one thing, but the taste isn't anything close to it? That's what happened. I suggested she try dipping it in the hot chocolate, but that didn't work either.  This dessert was actually created based on the chef's childhood memories, but alas, we had reached our bread quota earlier in the lunch. 

We are totally leaving on a high note.  The dessert was absolutely phenomenal. The overall space had good energy, and I felt good dining there.  It's a shame that the sandwiches didn't hit the mark, but it's hard to be good at everything.  Plus, I find it's always true that sharing food with close friends is one of life's greatest pleasures. Thanks Friend Elaine for this wonderful belated birthday lunch! Muah!   

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Joule - Seattle

You might imagine that Joule has been on my "list" for a long time.  Chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi are a dynamic culinary duo with an impressive culinary history. Words like, James Beard, Iron Chef America, and Per se are always enticing, aren't they?  Yep, Chef Yang was a James Beard Award semi-finalist for four years in a row.  I've been to and enjoyed their other Seattle restaurants, Revel and Trove, so when Friend Claire said she had reservations for us at Joule, who am I to say no?  

We arrived right on time and were immediately welcomed to a nice table on the patio.  You won't be surprised to know that I wanted everything on the menu, but even the server said that would be too much.  He suggested that we order eight sharable plates for the four of us, so we ordered ten.  

From the Starters section, we chose the Beef Tartare and the Yellow Curry Pickled Beets. 

Friend Claire wasn't terribly excited about the tartare, but the server assured her that it was a good  "beginner" tartar with Asian pear, pine nuts, and spicy cod roe aioli.   I'm happy to report that we all tried it and liked it.  The beets were a refreshing and tangy. I loved the combination of flavors and textures with figs, olives and a spicy pistachio oil. I'd order both of these again. 


From the Salads, we chose the Tat Soi with a warm Chinese sausage vinaigrette and smoked tea egg and the Smoked Tofu with honshimeji confit and a soy truffle vinaigrette.

Tat soi are the greens of the salad; it's a cross between spinach and a kind of bok choy - and  it's delicious. There were little bits of Chinese sausage throughout, and with the eggs, this was a hearty salad that was full of flavor.  The Smoked Tofu was terrific as well.  Hom shimeji is a mushroom found in East Asia or Northern Europe.  It has a bit of a nutty taste which paired perfectly with the smokiness of the tofu. I really, really enjoy most things tofu, and I have no qualms in giving this dish two thumbs up.

From the Rice and Noodle category, we chose just one: The Spicy Rice Cake with chorizo and pickled mustard green. This yummy, yummy dish was the favorite of the night!  The rice cakes, those lovely little ovals, were the perfect chewy texture and thickness to soak up the spicy chorizo sauciness. Spot-on in every way.  I would pop into Joule solely for this dish.

From the Vegetables, we chose the Long Bean, Burdock, and Mushroom Vadouvan.  This plate was a good one, but didn't send me over the edge.  Don't get me wrong, we ate the entire plate, but nothing wow-ed me after the rice cakes.  It is a hard act to follow.

We tried two seafood plates and two steak plates: The Octopus with bok choy and hot bacon vinaigrette, the Mackerel with green curry cilantro chimichurri -say that five times fast- and black currant, "That" Short Rib Steak with a kalbi marinade and grilled kimchi, and the Snake River Farms Kobe Flank Steak with cucumber larb and sorrel.


I actually didn't care too much for either of the seafood dishes, though applause is certainly given for thinking outside the box in the preparation.  While the mackerel has a ton of health benefits, it's just too fishy of a fish for me. The octopus was the largest piece of octopus I've had on a plate.  Maybe I just wasn't used to such a big portion of meat outside of the tentacle. The bacon and bok choy were nice accompaniments though.

The beef dishes were also just all right.  The short rib steak is taken directly off the of the rib to keep the meat in tact.  It was prepared well, and I love kalbi, but for me, the texture was off.   As for the flank, the presentation was the best part.  It was good, not great.  

I thought maybe I was getting full and that's why the final batch of plates didn't really do it for me, but that thought was proved wrong when dessert came.  The Joule Box was ... Holy Tapioca!  It was so, so good.  So fresh,  so perfect, and I so wished I had my own plate. Pearl tapioca with a ruby grapefruit brûlée and coconut bits.  I never could have imagined that this dessert would be such a gorgeous little dance. 

Despite a few plates that didn't quite suit me, I'm walking away with a happy feeling.  The restaurant itself had a good vibe, the service was outstanding, the food was innovative -and had me looking up words on the internet to find out exactly what I was eating-, and the company, of course, was superb.  A nice night out, indeed. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Marjorie - Seattle

What's in a name?  For me, a lot.  Maybe it's the teacher in me; memories of a good kid or not-so-good kid can predispose me to an opinion.  The only Marjorie I ever had in class was just as sweet as sugar, so I came into Marjorie - the restaurant - with high expectations.  (A teacher should always have high expectations, though, right?).  While the restaurant doesn't dot her i's with a heart, this place did not disappoint.

We arrived 45 minutes early for our reservation on Friday May 8th, and almost without even approaching a hostess, we were greeted with a warm smile.  The option for outdoor or indoor seating was given, but how could we pass up the chance to sit outside on a beautiful evening in Seattle?  The patio is not in the sunlight, but with the heaters, it was comfortable all night. The metal chairs were colorful, the feel was cozy, and the lights set the mood for a lovely evening.

Well, hello there, Patio. Sure, I'll take a seat. Thank you.
Menu posted on the window.

As our menus were handed to us, we immediately ordered a full order of plantain chips with guacamole and added the bay shrimp ceviche. According to the reviews I read prior to our visit, this is a must.  The plantain chips were great - not greasy, not too sweet, not too salty - the perfect vehicle for getting food in my mouth. The guac was artfully presented and the taste was a fresh delight. I think next time I'll skip the ceviche though; Bay shrimp just isn't my thing.  Want to try these plantains and don't have time to get over to Marjorie for a meal?  Hop on over to Whole Foods to find them!  In fact, while you're at it, head on over to the Marjorie website for the guacamole recipe too!! 

Picture Perfect - Eat with your eyes first!

After the plantains, we picked a few other starters to get the night rolling.  Yeah, I wanted to order everything, but alas, I had to choose.  

Burrata is my first choice, hands down, every time it's offered, and tonight is no different.  I equate burrata to a rich molten chocolate cake, but made of cheesy goodness. I can't overstate the deliciousness of their Gioia Burrata with grilled king oyster mushrooms.  Usually I try to leave the last bite for someone else in my group (can't seem too eager, you know), but I feel sure I had more than my share of this plate.  Love!  

Next came the large order of Grilled Octopus.  I don't know when I became such a fan, I can hardly stop myself from ordering it lately.  (If you're sensing self-control issues, so did my first grade teacher.  Some things never change).  Luckily our friends were equally enthralled with the choice. This plate could have been a meal on its own, with the marble potato, watercress, marcona almonds, and pickled shallot.  It was a nice, sturdy combo. 

Our final app of the evening was the King Salmon Crudo. My single best bite was a crudo at Anchovies and Olives nearby, so I'm always on the hunt for a good crudo, and this one was gorgeous. Add some blood orange, red onion, cured olives, with a bit of fresno chili, and there you have it!  A decent palate cleanser before the main plates appear, too.

After the appetizers and our initial catching-up-on-life conversations, we had a chance to look around and take in the atmosphere.  Dear Ben snapped a pic of the kitchen on his way to the bathroom.  He sent several other pictures of the actual bathroom too.  He was a fan of the record player.  You'll have to see for yourself, I suppose. 

We asked our kind server what she liked the best off of the menu, and she said, though it seems trite, she loves the pizza.  The current combination did have some allure (nettle pesto, baby artichokes, pecorino, olive, vin cotto, and arugula), but none of us took her suggestion.  

Dear Ben and Friend Priscilla went big for the burger, The True Burger, adding the aged white cheddar.  Friend Priscilla ordered her meat medium well and Dear Ben ordered it as the chef recommends, which is on the rare side of medium-rare (aka "rare roadkill," according to Friend Priscilla).  Each wished the meat arrived a little bit more in the middle, but it didn't stop them eating most of the plate.  

I just could not decide what I wanted.  I was strongly leaning toward the Spring Vegetable Fettuccine or the Neah Bay Halibut. I gave the server the third degree:  Which dish has more flavor?  Which dish is more popular?  She was steering my toward the pasta, but I chose the halibut.  

Thank goodness Friend David ordered the pasta and was generous enough to share a bite. That's how you know you've got a true friend.  I actually preferred that homemade dish of thick fettuccine, almost pappardelle, to the halibut.  The taste of springtime in those sweet English peas and baby artichokes, combined with the innovative twist of the chickpea puree with Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, white wine, and butter.  That dish, on a night like this one, was pure perfection.  In fact, Friend Priscilla notes that when her Dear David really loves his dish, he will scrape up any last remnants from the plate, and that's just what he did! I'll go out on a limb, and advise you to order whatever pasta dish they have on the menu.  They obviously know what they're doing. 

With all of that praise of the pasta, I should also say that my halibut was terrific.  Just comparatively, it had a heavier feel, with the acidity of the tomatoes, the buttery melted leeks, and the Fiddlehead Ferns (guess where those cute things are in the picture?).  Here's your food education of the day - these delectable additions are full of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and are high in iron and fiber - and in real life, they have a nice kick of flavor that I quite enjoyed.  

And dessert... Friend Priscilla says it's a must.  "Always," she says.  How can you argue with that?  So, we picked two.  I am fundamentally against bread pudding; so much, I can hardly type the words.  I had a bad experience with it probably 15 years ago, and I'm not over it.    Friend David gave me a hard time, "Bread with bourbon? What's not to like?!"  I have to admit, when you put it that way, my aversion does seem silly, so I bucked up and tried it.  Ok, ok, it was good.  Brioche bread with bourbon caramel, toffee, and cream.  What's not to like?  It's pictured in the bowl.

Now, a S'more.  My favorite, favorite, and with Espresso - Yes, please! House graham, espresso-dark chocolate cremeux, and a marshmallow brûlée. Just the words alone might have me dancing!  Both desserts were spectacular. Thank goodness, Friend Priscilla is a dessert girl! 

As we got up from the table, I turned to take a quick last glance at Marjorie.  It was a nice night, with a delicious meal from start to finish, and such wonderful company.  Good Night, Miss Marjorie... Till next time. 

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