meeting my newest seattle friend

I made a quick trip to Seattle last month to see my dear friend Megan and meet her 5-week old baby boy. As cheesy as it sounds, Seattle clings tight to a piece of my heart. As soon as the plane landed on the tarmac, surrounded by clouds and drizzle, tears came to my eyes. I was there less than 48 hours, but we packed a lot in. Most importantly, I spent a lot of quality time with Megan, her husband Sean, and the cute newcomer to their family.

^^after touching down at seatac, i took the light rail (for just $2.75!) downtown, and then walked up to capitol hill. i had to hit up my favorite coffee shop, victrola, before uber-ing to megan's 'hood: madison park.^^

^^baby william! so happy to meet him! what expressions he has at such a young age. no surprise, though, given how cool and animated his parents are.^^

^^baby william, his parents, our friend shannon, and i all went to anchovies & olives for a delicious dinner, and then ended the night with dessert, conversation, and baby bouncing at cupcake royale.^^

^^gorgeous saturday morning light in madison park.^^

^^beautiful new mama rocking the best baby carrier eva.^^

^^obviously, going to mighty-o donuts was a must. conveniently, they've open a new shop in ballard, which was another spot i wanted to visit. we spent saturday afternoon walking around and checking out new and old spots, happily full of donuts.^^

^^had to stop at golden gardens for a quick walk along the beach. // as the sun set, we went back to madison park and cooked salmon and vegetables for dinner. we talked parenting and baby carriers and life. we reminisced about the fun we had as twenty-somethings in fremont and capitol hill. we were too busy talking to take any pictures. it was just lovely.^^

^^a quick shot after a great breakfast at geraldine's before i headed back to the airport. thank you SO MUCH for the wonderful weekend, megan!^^

a donut desert in denver

When we moved to Denver, I knew I would miss so much about the city of Seattle. Not so much the rain and the grey (although I actually do really miss that sometimes!) but lots of other things. One thing I didn't anticipate missing, however, was donuts. Artisan donuts. To get even more specific, vegan donuts. Basically, Mighty-O Donuts. Before moving to Seattle, I'd always liked a sweet baked good, but I'd never really dabbled in the donut scene beyond a Dunkin' Donut or a Krispy Kreme (why so much alliteration in the donut world, btw?). But on a cool, rainy, Seattle morning, there's really nothing like a donut and a coffee to get you going. Mighty-O is where all my loyalties lie, but the city's other big purveyor, Top Pot, is pretty much just as delicious. We'd frequently stop by one or the other for donuts on our way to a hike or a walk or a ski trip.

Then we moved to Denver. A donut desert. There were great restaurants to be enjoyed, craft beers galore, and sufficiently (although not exceptionally) delicious cupcakes. But where could a girl get a donut? No where, it seemed. I asked around, and most people didn't even understand my need for a fancy round treat.

Ok, ok, I know what you're thinking (Voodoo!). There are exceptions to this complaint. Mighty-O sells their donuts in a few Whole Foods. (Not all of them though, so it took a lot of asking and hunting. Cherry Creek is your best bet.) Voodoo Doughnuts opened on Colfax earlier this year. And another place joined the donut game as well: Glazed and Confuzed. It's a bit of a haul from our 'hood, but we made the trek last weekend to see what they were serving up.

Unfortunately, despite the excitement shown in the above photo, I'm still left missing "Seattle-style" donuts. I'm hard to please, I guess. Voodoo, Glazed and Confuzed, and others certainly make delicious donuts. But here's why I'm still not satisfied:

1. High-quality ingredients vs. Wow Factor The craziest donut you'll find at Mighty-O is something like chocolate raspberry. They make delicious and unique flavors, but they're all pretty tame. French Toast is one of their standbys. This means whatever you choose for your breakfast treat will be indulgent and sweet, but not overly so. You (most likely) won't feel ill. I'm not vegan, or even vegetarian, but because Mighty-O uses only vegan (+ non-GMO) ingredients, their donuts are never going to be as over the top as Voodoo's. Same goes for Top Pot. Their donut case has shades of browns and beiges. Not so much a rainbow. And that's just fine with me.

2. Coffee. Maybe this is another Seattle vs. Denver thing, but both Mighty-O and Top Pot offer stellar coffee alongside their donuts. (I'm talking about a full-service espresso bar that uses locally roasted beans. Not a thermos with some random variety drip.) It seems like a no-brainer. Does anything go better with a donut than coffee?

3. Cake vs. Yeasted Which type is your favorite? I'm with cake, all the way. And that's what Mighty-O and Top Pot do well. They usually have a couple yeasted options, but not too many. Voodoo and Glazed and Confuzed on the other hand, offer up several yeasted varieties.

4. Lines. This is where only Voodoo fails. I don't even want to get started because I might not be able to stop. I have a serious problem with the omnipresence of the line outside all (most?) of their stores. Sure, there's a long wait when something new and exciting opens. But months and months later, the line is just evidence that you're not doing something right. You need a more visible menu! And perhaps you should carry a few less varieties at a time so people can order more quickly! Or staff some more people!

Ok. I have to cut myself off. From this post, that is, not from continuing to demand what I think is a better donut. It must be coming? It exists in so many cities. Come on, Denver, make me proud.

vashon island

When we were in Seattle last month, a main stop on my itinerary was Vashon Island to visit my dear friend Brenna and her family. They'd moved out to Vashon after we left Seattle, and I'd never otherwise made the trip, so Vashon was a total mystery to me. (Ok, "total" is probably an exaggeration, since I'd heard lots about it from Brenna and others, but I was still very excited to check it out.) Brenna's daughter is the same age as Willa, and we were so happy they'd have a chance to play together for a couple days. Vashon was beautiful. The island itself, and in particular my friends' house, made me feel like life had slowed down. Everything felt calmer. Quieter. More relaxed. It was lovely. I was super excited to be back in the Pacific Northwest. So green! Moss! Trees and flowers of all types! Friends and fresh air are quite rejuvenating.


^^ferry riding^^

^^coffee, pastries, and steamed milks @ the vashon island coffee roasterie. it was the birthplace of seattle's best coffee. and they now "specialize in heirloom coffee." (i love seattle.)^^

^^just look at all that green! don't you feel more relaxed?^^

^^around town. we had the most fabulous lunch at snapdragon. it was so hard to pick our sweet treats; such options! and, how cute are the little ladies?^^

^^beach time. breakfast time.^^

^^this is what trying to do a self-timer shot with two toddlers looks like.^^

Thanks for everything, Brenna!

girls' trip to seattle

Where oh where has the last month gone? It was just April, but now May is nearing it's end? Things have been happening. Lots of doing. Lots of comings and goings. Lots of sleeping.

Perhaps most exciting of those things was a trip to Seattle during the last week of April. My mom, Willa, and I flew out to the sunny PNW for a week. (Yep, it was mostly sunny!) The goals were pretty simple: food, fun, family, and friends. We accomplished pretty much all of that, and more. It was wonderful visiting some of our favorite places and showing them to Willa for the first time. Not to mention it was fantastic having my mom's help with Willa because, in case you didn't know, traveling with a toddler is exhausting. Thanks mom!

^^greens and blues. really nothing won't grow in seattle.^^

^^seattle: where even the highchairs are hip. (@ skillet diner)^^

^^brunch at café presse on capitol hill^^

^^BFF. dressed up. lake washington views.^^

^^ladies who love seattle. and each other.^^

^^i love denver. but there are no views like this in colorado.^^

^^afternoon at the aquarium.^^

^^din tai fung, u-village. where i learned that not only do they have the best XLB ever, they also have the best kids' plates ever. but they are not for sale. i asked.^^


Check out more Seattle posts here, as well as my Seattle restaurant list!

the source

A couple of years ago in Seattle, Melrose Market opened on Capitol Hill. It was pretty darn awesome, but not that notably unique for Seattle's food scene. Several food purveyors and restaurateurs devoted to all things artisanal opened up in a building that was formerly an auto-repair shop. Locally-focused, trendy, and so Seattle, I of course loved it. My favorite Seattle restaurant, Sitka & Spruce was one of the main features of the market (it'd relocated from its previous space by Lake Union), and Dan and I went there for our first night out after Willa was born.

Since moving to Denver, I've missed Seattle's food culture. And places like Melrose Market. But Denver continues to surprise me, and months ago I was estatic to hear news of The Source. When I read about the project, I knew it'd be very similiar to Melrose. I've been dying to check it out for the past few months, and I finally got there the other day. My sister was still in town (which was awesome) and I thought The Source would be a fun place to spend a few hours. And thankfully, but not surprisingly, it was.

The Source does, indeed, have all the same fantastic traits as Melrose, but with a Denver flair. In a converted factory building-- it's BIG. There's apparently room for 25 vendors, but the dozen or so that currently occupy the space already offer up a great deal. It was kind of an amusment park for people who love food. Coffee! Fresh bread! Meats! Beer! Kombucha! All local. All delicious. And actually, shockingly, all reasonably priced.

^^lunch at acorn^^

^^high five from the butcher!^^

^^these photos make me so happy. it was such a lovely morning; family and food. good times. we'll definitely be back. often.^^

november + december

I'm sure I'm just one of a million people who is saying to themselves, "Hey, it's a new year. I should blog more." However, I'm not sure the lull in my blogging had much to do with the specific dates. Mostly, I haven't written much because November and December of last year got a bit hectic. There was a lot going on in our lives...several trips, dramatic changes to the daily routine, and as a result, not much cooking. The months were not without culinary highlights though. Looking back through pictures (my culinary memory), I recollect a lot of satiating eating experiences. So, before I, like so many others out there, refocus my efforts on posting more in 2012, I want to document a few highlights from the last months of 2011:

Ottolenghi's Black Pepper Tofu.After a trip to Uwajimaya to stock my Asian pantry, I made this relatively straightforward tofu recipe. The pepper was intense, but in a good way. Incredibly rich and flavorful, this dish is fancy enough to shine as a weekend meal for sure.

Serious Biscuit.

Before they changed their name from Dahlia Workshop, we made our way down to South Lake Union on a sunny weekend morning to try Tom Douglas's latest breakfast joint. The breakfast sandwiches finally filled the void in my life that has been vacant since we left the driving radius of 

Middlebury's Bagel Deli. 

The biscuit is of course a much different medium than the bagel, but the enjoyment factor was in the same ballpark. I'd recommend steering clear of the "holy cow i feel ill"-inducing options such as fried chicken with tabasco black pepper gravy, and instead going with something more simple, like the fennel sausage and egg with pepper relish and fontina. But then again, who am I to say what your weekend morning might call for.

Pecan Pie. This Thanksgiving, for the first time, I added a third slice of pie to my already crowded dessert plate: chocolate pecan. I couldn't believe what I'd been missing for so long! And then, at a delightful holiday party around Christmas, the hosts served me my second pecan pie. It totally hit the spot again. Although I have to say I would have switched the pies if possible. I think a delicate, slightly sweet pecan pie is great alongside pumpkin and apple, whereas the chocolate pecan stands out solo. My friend Leigh shared a recipe for the latter which I can't wait to have the occasion to bake.

Delancey. When I turned 28 in November, I was lucky enough to gather ten of my closest friends for a dinner at Seattle's best artisan pizza joint. The best part about having a party of 11? Making a reservation! They only take reservations for parties of 6+, and without one the wait is still usually 2 hours, even years after their opening. We kept the ordering simple: one of each pizza on the menu. The crimini was my favorite as always, but everything was sensational. I love that place. Orangette was even in the house - I decided to pretend she knew it was my birthday and was nearby to celebrate. Yeah right.

Euclid Hall. On an early December trip to Denver, we wanted to try some of the region's famous microbrews. And of course one can't just drink a high-quality beer solo. Delicious gastropub fare alongside is often our requirement. Thankfully, a quick internet led us to Euclid Hall, ranked by Esquire magazine as having one of the top ten beer menus in the country. The beer list was indeed impressive: great selections on tap, and a bottle list organized by increasing complexity by mathematic terms.

The food didn't disappoint either. We had wild mushroom poutine with porcini gravy and Wisconsin cheddar curds, a double decker chicken schnitzel sandwich on dill rye with aioli and apple cabbage caraway slaw, and some "hot, spicy and very sincere pickles" on the side. Based on this restaurant and our lunch at Masterpiece Delicatessen, I was quite encouraged by Denver's food scene.

specialty items

Last month, I was at Pike Place Market with my dear friend Katie. It was her first visit to Seattle, and after showing her the flying fish, the first Starbucks, and all the amazing food vendors, I paused on the cobblestone street and said, "I just need to grab something from this Indian grocer." I quickly strode into The Souk and found what I was looking for: black mustard seeds. After paying a couple dollars, I reconvened with Katie outside the store, and she commented, "I don't think I'll ever cook anything that calls for a spice that's not available at a regular supermarket." Katie's comment got me thinking. Trips to multiple markets = delightful or aggravating? Certainly it depends on the person. But me? I've never met a market I didn't love. Just yesterday I went to three groceries before noon (no way am I buying romaine hearts at Fred Meyer for $2.99 when they're $1.99 at Trader Joe's!). And markets that carry specialty items are the best. Many agree with me, obviously. But several fall into the other camp, usually sticking to the standard spices and ingredients. And then there's actually a third camp, which I sometimes fall into. This is those of us who love using special ingredients, but often don't have what we need on hand and decide to make the recipe anyway, hoping it'll turn out okay. Sometimes it does, but often it doesn't. So from the me who went into The Souk that day to get the mustard seeds, here's my reccomendation:

Step 1: Find a recipe that calls for something you've never heard of. Step 2: Google the ingredient so you understand how it's sold in the U.S. and what you're looking for once you get to the store. (Be sure to check if it has any alternate names in English.) Step 3: Find a store. Step 4: Make the trip, even if it takes some effort. Step 5: Cook the recipe and be prepared to have your taste buds amazed.

For inspiration, here are a few of my favorite recipes that call for ingredients not available at most "regular" stores.

Cucumber Peanut Salad 101 Cookbooks This is the salad that calls for black mustard seeds. It's very easy to make, minus the chopping of the cukes, and the cheapness of the ingredients makes up for the effort you have to make to get the mustard seeds!

Pasta with Mustard Greens Pesto, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Smoked Mozzarella Bon Appétit This recipe is borderline. It's very possible to find all the ingredients in a standard grocery, and definitely at Whole Foods, but there are still some specialty ingredients that are necessary to make this recipe as written. And if you're not going to try it as written, you shouldn't bother. The smoked mozzarella and shiitake mushrooms are a must.

Palak Daal 101 Cookbooks The first few times I made this I couldn't find urad dal anywhere, so I substituted chana dal and brown lentils. And the dal was good. But when I finally found urad dal at an Indian grocer, I was delighted by how improved this dish was.

Laarb (Thai chicken "salad") Mark Bittman's "The Best Recipes in the World" Laarb (Laab, Larb) could very well be my favorite dish in the entire world. It's a Laotian dish made with meat, fresh herbs, fish sauce, and lime juice. It's usually served with cabbage and other fresh vegetables. Ground toasted rice is an important component of the dish. It's not too hard to make, but you do need to stock your pantry with some specific ingredients from Asian grocery stores.

Salmon in Bengali Mustard Sauce  Saveur Shout out to Rachel who told me I had to try this recipe. It fit well with a weekend trip to Pike Place, where we picked up salmon and mustard powder. I think it would work well with other fish besides salmon. Serve with some yummy basmati rice.


I have never been to the Skillet Street Food truck. There, I said it. So embarrassing. So hypocritical. While I can't remember the exact moment, I'm pretty certain I've gone on and on to someone about how great Skillet is. Without having ever actually eaten there. Yep, that makes me a liar. Yikes.

I've lived in Seattle three years minus a week or two, and since day one I've heard nothing but rave reviews of Skillet's comfort food out of their signature silver trailer. We've tried to go. I've tracked them online, on Facebook, on Twitter. I just never seem to be in the right place at the right time. Or I get delayed and pull into the Phinney parking lot directly behind them as they're pulling out. Grrrr.

Maybe I just didn't try hard enough? Maybe I'm not really a committed eater? Either way, I never gave up hope. I knew I'd eat some Skillet delights. Someday. When Skillet Diner opened last month, I was elated. A solid, unmoving, eatery where I could find that poutine I needed to try. And open seven days a week from 7am-midnight!? Now that's service.

I finally got myself there this week. My parents are in town visiting, and while they really wanted something like a Plan B burger, that doesn't exist in Seattle as far as I can tell, so Skillet seemed like the best option.

It was Monday night but felt like a Friday, or at least a Thursday, given the crowd. We just beat the rush, arriving at 6:45pm to a 30 minute wait. The hostess didn't take our phone number, but we decided to live on the edge and skipped down the street to Elysian so my Dad, a hardcore beer connoisseur, could taste a few microbrews. Immortal IPA and The Wise ESB, yes please!

We were seated at minute 28 or 29 of 30, which is always a plus. The ambiance of the place is fantastic. People everywhere; laughing and casually enjoying their comfort food. The service was good. It appeared the servers' uniform is plaid shirts, which seemed a little much to me (forced hipsterism?) but then again I was a total sucker for the "let's serve everything in a different-sized mason jar" approach. I will have the "cheap beer du jour." In a lowball Kerr jar. Thankyouverymuch.

Our party of four ordered: poutine, mac + cheese, 2x the burger, and the salmon burger split two ways. Overall, it was very, very solid food. Here's what made me happy (in addition to the mason jars):

  • The Menu. So many options! Something for everyone! Breakfast all day! There were so many things I wanted to eat, I need to go back at least 20 times (given my history, that'll take me my whole lifetime...). That's what a diner should be like though. Nice work.
  • Mixed greens. When places offer up a mixed green salad, you usually get baby lettuce, baby chard, and maybe some radicchio. Skillet did not mess around with their greens. There was kale in there! So good.
  • Speed. Our food came out quickly despite the crowd. And the temperature was perfect. Again, true diner form. Impressive.
  • Beers in cans. Unsurprisingly, my "cheap beer du jour" was a Kokanee tall boy. But the other craft beers we ordered were also in cans. I I liked this. I'm a big fan of the "microcanning revolution."

However. Me being me, I had some complaints:

  • The poutine is not poutine. Everyone knows fries and cheese is delicious, heck fries with anything salty on top is amazing. But I feel pretty strongly that you can't take the cheese curds out of the poutine. Well, that's not true. Quinn's does, and it's still poutine. What you need is distinction between gravy and cheese. I want white punctuating brown, and a mixture of textures. Skillet's poutine was fries with a uniform covering of ample herbed gravy. Tasty? Yes! Poutine? Not so much.
  • Mac + Cheese = Poutine? The two dishes tasted alarmingly similar. Both really good, but wouldn't again order both on the same visit.
  • Burger switch. We ordered two burgers: one medium rare, one medium. They were delivered, and midway through eating, we realized they'd been swapped. The medium rare diner was not wowed by the medium burger, and the medium burger lover was a bit pained to eat pink meat. Definitely detracted from the burger reviews.
  • No beers on tap. While they do have a tap list, they were out of all of them. Sure, that happens. I understand. Busy weekend. But did it make us happy? Nope.

I'm quite relieved I no longer have to be a liar when I talk about Skillet's food. But I do still need to keep chasing that truck...

my restaurant list

Part of the impetus for starting this blog was a desire to keep track of all the great restaurants in Seattle. One of my first posts was a list of places I like and places I wanted to try. I keep finding myself wanting to go back to that post and update it, but that's not really what you're supposed to do to blog posts (right?). So I decided to make it more easily accessible. The list can be found at the link underneath the header image, on the right. The inital post was a frozen moment in my eating history. The new list will be constantly evolving. Like restaurants. Delightful.


As far as I'm concerned, there are two types of full. There's the "oh my god I feel terrible why on earth did I eat that fourth slice of mediocre pizza followed by two nondescript brownies?" full. And then there's the "holy cow I feel pretty ill right now but it was completely and utterly worth it because the food I just consumed was out-of-this-world delicious." This past weekend, I experienced the latter.

We headed to Seattle's Madrona neighborhood to try out June. It opened quietly last year, and has been on my list of places to try, but somehow Madrona rarely called for an evening out. New places in Cap Hill usually won out. But a few months back there was a Groupon for June, so that sealed the deal.

We had a reservation for 7pm but didn't need it; we had our choice of tables. We opted for a booth in the back which was cozy and private but a bit monochromatic. We were right near the increasingly lively bar, but couldn't see it due to the booth partition. The meal was tasty. Dessert was FANTASTIC. To start from the end, we had bioche bread-bitter chocolate bread pudding. It was, without a doubt, the best dessert I've had in Seattle to date. Heavenly. Just the right amount of chocolatey-ness, the perfect moistness and a generous dollop of crème fraîche on the side to compliment the caramel sauce. A few bites in I knew I was full but it didn't matter. I couldn't stop. I wouldn't.

Clearly, the bread pudding was the most memorable, but other dishes were great as well. We started with a dish off the "bites" menu: tempura brussel sprouts and asparagus. It was a generous serving and served piping hot. We favored the appetizer part of the menu, trying lamb and chickpea chili, nettle soup with pickled mushrooms, and a beet salad with hazelnuts and blue cheese. The chili was amazing, the soup was beautiful and quite balanced, and the beet salad was enjoyable although pretty predictable.

The only let down of the night was our entrée. Goat cheese ravioli with fresh peas and spring onions. It was way too salty for my liking and I'm a chronic oversalter. (I salt pizza. Excessively. This could be what leads to the first type of fullness...) Not only were the flavors off, but there were multiple lemon seeds in the broth. Nitpicky I know, but come on. I watch Top Chef. I know those are two mistakes that will cost you a challenge.

Thankfully, dessert came and the disappointment of the entrée was forgotten entirely. It was a superb dining experience. Followed by a relaxing evening on the couch feeling wonderfully full.


If you now find yourself craving bread pudding, I'd highly recommend my friend Rachel's recipe for Bourbon Chocolate Bread Pudding which was a winning dish over at food52. Another option, is my fall favorite pumpkin bread pudding (inspired by another restaurant dessert, this time from 1844 House).

bainbridge island

In our nearly three years in Seattle, we've been lucky enough to have a good number of loved ones come visit. One of my go-to activities is to take the ferry from downtown to Bainbridge Island for brunch.

I love grabbing a coffee at Starbucks on the corner of 1st & Marion before walking down the walkway to the terminal, buying a $5 round trip ticket from the electronic kiosk and then walking aboard the ferry. The views of downtown never disappoint, and within 35 minutes (just about the time you realize you're freezing), the boat docks. After disembarking (I love that word, fyi.), it's a short 5 minute walk into the town of Winslow, where all the stores and restaurants are easily accessibly along Winslow Way for browsing and strolling.But the thing is, if it's a weekend, and you're heading to Cafe Nola, which is where you'd be crazy not to be heading, chances are you're not the only one. Awhile back, Giada De Laurentiis did a weekend guide of where to eat in Seattle on the Food Network. To be fair, she's the one that deserves the credit for the brilliant Bainbridge Island brunch trip. But, anyway, whether it's because of Giada or just good marketing and word of mouth, lots of Seattleites head to Cafe Nola for brunch. So when you get off the ferry you have to hustle. I invariably am annoying my companions by insisting we speed walk. "Hurry!" They always thank me. Because we get to Cafe Nola and get one of the last open tables, and we're enjoying our amazing bloody marys while the other suckers are loitering in the entryway waiting for a table. Brunch at Cafe Nola is devine. Their bloody marys are fantastic; the kind with a garden growing upwards out of them. They have different variations to choose from too, like one with beef juice dripped in. I always go classic though. And as far as food goes, it's all good. But the must-order here is the Carmel Pecan French Toast. It is life changing. I promise. It comes with orange bourbon butter. Don't waste any time being indecisive. Just order it. You won't be disappointed. Especially after running from the ferry dock.

This past week, my dearest friend Alli was in town for a visit. We really wanted to take a ferry somewhere, so Bainbridge was the natural choice. But, it wasn't the weekend. That meant having brunch at Cafe Nola was not an option. We decided to head there anyway (not walking as fast off the ferry though), and arrived around 2pm. Our friendly waitress popped up to our booth with "Hi! Would you like a Guiness!?" Huh? "In honor of St. Patrick's Day!" Oh. No thanks. We instead looked at the menu. $1 PBRs!!?! You're kidding me. "You basically lose money if you don't order one," advises our server. We'll have two. Lunch food was delicious. We had an arugula salad with roasted squash, blue cheese, and lemon caper vinaigrette accompanied by the more indulgent bacon wrapped chorizo stuffed dates. Yum. But the real clincher was the $1 PBRs. It wasn't like they brought out the can from the back room. They poured them into the coolest high ball glasses. (It kind of made me want to get some of the same glasses. Until Alli reminded me I have way too many glasses already.) Duly noted: lunch at Cafe Nola is just as amazing as brunch.

Another advantage to the afternoon trip to Bainbridge, we discovered, is wine tasting. Apparently Bainbridge has a growing wine scene, with 8 wineries on the island. We ventured into eleven, where the friendly sommelier Kevin got our tasting started. There are a few other tasting rooms within steps of the ferry (see this guide from Sunset magazine) and I'm sure they're all nice, but I recommend eleven. The wine was impressive, the prices reasonable, and Kevin provided fantastic service.

We opted to taste all 9 of the available wines (at $1 a taste, why not?!). We sipped away while Kevin told us about the winery, where they source their grapes (all from Eastern Washington except those that make their Pinot Gris port), and life living on Bainbridge. The wine was really good. My favorites were their Pinot Grigio and a red blend called La Ronde (65% Malbec, 28% Syrah, and 7% Petit Verdot). Alli treated me to a bottle of the Pinot Grigio and I bought a bottle of the Sweet Sarah port, so we have two bottles of Bainbridge wine to enjoy at some point this spring. Moral of the story is this: if you live in Seattle or come to Seattle, make the day trip to Bainbridge Island. While there, eat at Cafe Nola. After some delicious fare, there are many other fun things to explore - one of which is wine tasting!


mistral kitchen

Last night was "date night." And my kind, thoughtful, date used a sure-fire method to ensure he selected a restaurant that would delight: he picked one off my "must try soon" list. Mistral Kitchen. I liked it. We liked it. It was a really good meal. To be fair, I have to do this as an overall assessment. A chronological review would not go well. Our relationship with Mistral got off on a rough foot. But more about that later. First let me talk about the food. We ordered:

  • kushi and kumamoto oysters with the chef's preparation (beurre blanc on one and fresh cucumber and something on the other)
  • hamachi crudo with avocado, basil oil and radish sprouts
  • branzino with cannellini beans and black trumpet mushrooms
  • lamb loin with puy lentils, chard, and turnips
  • the ultra brownie with peanut butter ice cream

It was all delicious. Every last bite. The oysters were perfectly chilled and the accompaniments were flavorful. The hamachi was cut a bit thick for my liking, I'm more of a carpaccio-style curdo gal (How to Cook a Wolf!), but the basil oil was fantastic. The entrees were pretty amazing. The lentils, chard, and turnips were perfect with the lamb, and I enjoyed more than my fair share even though at sight I thought it was too undercooked..."eat it how it's meant to be eaten." The branzino was superb too, the perfect portion and the beans were marvelously al dente. Dessert was solid, but not that memorable. Our server told us the peanut butter ice cream was "life-changing" but I'm going to call hyperbole on that statement. It was good, but not make-yourself-ill-because-you-ate-it-all good.

But it just wouldn't be me if I didn't have some complaints. Like I said, we got off to a bad start. Our server (or the sommelier?) pulled an absurd stunt. I was not impressed. At all. We perused the beer and drink lists but decided we felt like wine, and also thought that would be the most economical option. Drinks were $12 each, but we could get a full bottle of wine for $35. We picked a Willamette Valley pinot blanc that we were sure we'd like. $35. Splendid deal. I have no problem ordering the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu. Too long passed after ordering, and we got to that annoying "where the heck is our wine?" moment. Finally our server came back to report that they were unfortunately out of the wine we ordered but he had a delicious alternative that we would LOVE. He was sure of it. He also slipped in that it was "closer to $50." We not-so-subtly commented that perhaps we'd get it for the $35 price point. No dice. He insisted it was the best wine ever and everyone loves it, and before we knew it he was pouring. At first, I hated it. It was no Willamette pinot blanc. It was French. And SWEET. We drank it in the end, and it grew on me, but then the bill came and it was actually $55. What!? Seriously!? I've never worked in a restaurant, but I just don't get it. We clearly ordered the chepaest bottle of wine on the menu. Why would you give us one that $20 more and think we were going to be pleased? There were several other whites on the list for $35 or $40. It's not like we ordered a $100 bottle and he brought us a $120 bottle. Do I look like that much of a pushover that you can play me? Apparently I am. But I didn't like it. Not one bit.

But I did like Mistral Kitchen overall. But it won't be making the "love" category. Not with that ridiculousness.

seattle eateries

I love the Seattle restaurant scene. Mostly, I love eating. And like most people, I like trying new places. But I also like order. I like not being overwhelmed by options. That's the great thing about eating out in Seattle. There are so many fantastic options, and new restaurants opening all the time, but there's a small enough number that you can keep your mind wrapped around it. You (er, I) know about the new places opening their doors, the places that are closing, and where the food trucks are. A few months back, I started compiling a list of restaurants I needed to try. We were planning a few dinners out for birthdays and visitors, and I wanted to make sure we were prioritizing. My list, of course, is always expanding. It seems new places open faster than I can eat. Or afford to eat.

I've received a few inquiries about my list, so I decided to post it here. To my "must try" list, I added on places I've already been. Places I'll happily go back to any day of the week. I suppose I should explain a bit more about what types of places I like, so you have a sense of whether or not my opinions have any relevance for your eating desires--

"Places I love" are a combination of great food, nice service, excellent atmosphere, and decent location. If a place is really hard to get to but has awesome food, it's probably in the "like" category. I hate stuffy service (white linens) and also get turned off by too-cool folks. I prefer small plates and sharing to giant eat-yourself entrees. I love all types of drink lists - good beers, good wines, fun cocktails. I don't mind paying a lot for a good meal, but I hate overpriced average food. I don't mind a long wait, if I'm mentally prepared. I do, however, like reservations. I'm a planner. For pizza, it needs to be artisan or New York style. Oh and most importantly - there would never, EVER, be a restaurant on my list that makes you hold onto your silverware between dishes/courses. I HATE that.

As for places that "underwhelm," let me explain. These aren't places I hate. They're places (for the most part) I actually like. They're just places that others rave about and I don't really buy the hype. But, to each his own.

Ask questions, please. And certainly feel free to disagree. I like a debate.

PLACES I LOVE Poppy (Capitol Hill) Anchovies and Olives (Capitol Hill) How to Cook a Wolf (Queen Anne) Quinn’s (Capitol Hill) Via Tribunali (Capitol Hill & 4 other locations) Sitka and Spruce (Capitol Hill/Downtown) Volunteer Park Café (Capitol Hill) Brad's Swingside Café (Fremont) Delancey (Ballard) Chiso (Fremont) Geraldine’s (Columbia City) Nettletown (Eastlake) Salumi (Downtown/ID) Dahlia Lounge (Downtown) Umi Sushi (Belltown) Cichetti (Eastlake) Dad Watson's (Fremont) Silent Heart Nest (Fremont) Din Tai Fung 鼎泰豐 (Bellevue)

PLACES I LIKE Sushi Kappo Tamura (Eastlake) Tilth (Wallingford) La Spiga (Capitol Hill) Tilikum Place Café (Seattle Center) tidbit (Capitol Hill) 35th Street Bistro (Fremont) Homegrown (Fremont, Queen Anne) Paseo (Fremont) The Shelter Lounge (Ballard) ocho (Ballard) King’s Hardware (Ballard) Spur Gastropub (Belltown) Branzino (Downtown/Belltown) Flying Fish (South Lake Union) Monsoon (Capitol Hill) Dinette (Capitol Hill) Tavolata (Belltown) Matt's In the Market (Pike Place) Serious Pie (Downtown & SLU) Lola (Downtown) Tutta Bella (Westlake, Wallingford, Columbia City)

PLACES OTHERS LOVE THAT UNDERWHELM ME Canlis (Queen Anne) Kingfish Café (Capitol Hill) Toulouse Petit (Queen Anne) Jade Garden (ID) Bastille (Ballard) Portage Bay Café (SLU, U-District, Ballard)

MUST TRY SOON {dinners} The Corson Building (Georgetown) Serafina (Eastlake) Re:public (South Lake Union) Café Flora (Madison Valley) Madison Park Conservatory (Madison Park) June (Madrona) Cascina Spinasse (Capitol Hill) Boat Street Café (Capitol Hill) La Bête (Capitol Hill) Tamarind Tree (ID) Lark (First Hill) Mistral Kitchen (Downtown/Belltown) [tried 2/11/11] Local 360 (Belltown) Lecosho (Harbor Steps) Joule (Wallingford) Elemental (Gasworks) Art of the Table (Fremont) emmer&rye (Queen Anne) [went 2/15/11] The Book Bindery (Queen Anne) Staple and Fancy (Ballard) The Walrus and the Carpenter (Ballard) Spring Hill (West Seattle)

MUST TRY SOON {drinks | small plates | casual | brunch | lunch} Seatown Snack Bar (Pike Place) [went 3/11/11] Delicatus (Pioneer Square) [went 3/26/11] Verve (Columbia City) Sutra (Wallingford – Vegan) Licorous (Seattle U) Harvest Vine (Madison Park) Bisato (Downtown/waterfront) Uneeda Burger (Fremont) moshi moshi (Ballard) Lunchbox Laboratory (South Lake Union) La Carta de Oaxaca (Ballard) [went 3/12/11] Flying Squirrel Pizza (Ballard, Seward Park)


I absolutely love AmazonFresh. I seriously can’t say enough good things. A few months back, at an alumni gathering for my college, I met someone who works at Amazon. He doesn’t even work on anything related to AmazonFresh, and I had only had half a drink, but I still went on and on and on about my affinity for AmazonFresh. But I’m going to try to calm myself for a moment here, and give a more balanced view. And then I'm going to return to looking forward to my groceries that will be arriving on my doorstep before 6am tomorrow morning. Yes I will have a whole wheat cinnamon raisin bagel with organic neufchâtel cheese for breakfast, thankyouverymuch. PROS:

Convenience – Order from your computer at home or work (shhh!) or from out of town. When travelling, it’s great to tee up a delivery order so your fridge isn’t empty when you get home late on a Sunday night and have work the next day. Last year, my family was heading out to the Olympic Peninsula for Christmas, so we ordered a big AmazonFresh order and had it delivered right when we were packing up the car. The delivery man helped us put the bags in the car right then and there!

Selection - Amazon is regularly adding items so there’s rarely an item I want that I can’t find.

Produce quality – before my first order, the quality of the produce was something I was worried about. I’m one of those annoying people who picks up and inspects every apple before putting it in my bag. You can’t do that online. But the quality of produce is outstanding.

Free Delivery – Orders $75 and above qualify for free delivery. Not hard to meet.

Automatic Delivery & Case discounts – money can be saved when you set up automatic delivery or purchase things in cases. I don’t do this now, but when/if I have more mouths to feed I can see this being convenient. The 10% and 15% discounts would off-set the price difference between AmazonFresh and Fred Meyer.

Great website – Just like, the website is so easy to use. You can save lists for future use, and the site automatically generates things you “might like” which you inevitably add to your cart.

No tips allowed - While some might think it's weird I find this a pro, I really do. There's no awkward moment with you and the delivery person where you give them a few bucks. I am sure Amazon pays their drivers well, and the rule is that no tips are accepted.

AmazonNOW items - Amazon has an ever-growing selection of items you can add to your grocery order. (I wish I hadn't just bought The Help at the UW bookstore for $24.95 or I would add the $13 one from Amazon to my order.)



Price – My grocery bill with AmazonFresh is without a doubt much higher than when I shop at Fred Meyer. However, it’s no more expensive than Whole Foods or even some QFCs and Safeways. While the delivery is free, the somewhat increased cost accounts for the convenience of delivered groceries!

No generics – part of the reason the cost is higher is that AmazonFresh only carries name brand items. For example they only have Talking Rain seltzer water instead of the BigK generic brand I get at Fred Meyer. And there’s only Silk soymilk, no 365 brand which is the cheapest at Whole Foods.

No bulk – A lot of money can be saved by shopping in bulk at conventional grocery stores.  All the items you need are still available at AmazonFresh, but they are more expensive because they’re packaged instead of being sold in bulk.

Inclement weather – I ordered Thanksgiving dinner groceries from AmazonFresh. Seattle got a snow storm. They cancelled my order. An AmazonFresh truck was stuck on the hill outside of my house. Completely understandable, but still a con.

Item sizes – While the descriptions on the website are entirely accurate, sometimes you’re not sure just how big a 4 ounce block of cheese is. Then you get it, and it’s way smaller than you thought. Your own fault, not theirs, but still a drawback to shopping online.