Saturday, February 11, 2017

Brunch at Sitka and Spruce

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Manolin: Seattle Ceviche and Roasted Delicacies

Manolin has been on my radar for quite some time. Located in the newly trendy Fremont district on par with Capitol Hill, it is located in a very convenient location. The building itself looked well constructed with great aesthetics. It was nice to see the pile of wood out in front that they use to roast certain dishes like their Grilled Beef.

Their menu looks spectacular; really encompassing that neighborhood small plates setting that locals, in addition to gastrotourists like myself love to go to. What makes it great other than the reasonably priced small plate offerings is their daily happy hour specials involving great discounts of their hand-crafted cocktails.

After lugging and Lyfting around Seattle, I needed something refreshing of which I chose their Phoenix cocktail. I must say that this cocktail was certainly quite refreshing though I would say that the lime juice overpowered the fig element of the cocktail which necessarily isn't a bad thing. It reminded me of the Caipirinhas I used to drink at Habana in Costa Mesa, CA. Delicious cocktail and a refreshing one, nonetheless.

Before I further continue to the culinary portion of this post, I must say that I greatly admire the U-shaped layout where there's not only bar/counter seating witnessing all of the action, but how it's far apart with great distance between both ends of the U that you're not uncomfortably staring/glaring each other from the other end while there is plenty of center seats in order to not make direct contact at all with the other patrons. If you're not someone who is into counter dining (you're definitely missing out on the action and also missing out on the advantage if it's you and your date that the view would definitely diminish any sort of awkwardness by talking about what's going on in the kitchen) or actually are in a larger group, then there is table seating on both sides.

The first dish that came to me was the Albacore Ceviche with Watermelon, Pork Jowl, and edible flowers (Marigolds). One thing I first noticed was that it wasn't drowned in marinade which could either be a good thing if the marinate was overpowering or not if you wanted extra palate-refreshing liquid to sip on cleansing one's palate.  Be that as it may, the Albacore was delicious with a smoky touch in its flavorings along with incorporating the acidity from its marinate. The savory watermelon and cucumber pieces added more moisture along with acidity by soaking up the marinade to accompany the fish in order to add a refreshing element towards the dish. What was really an ideal touch was the Pork Jowl that resembles bacon; it provided an earthy, smoky element of the land to the fish that incorporates that of the sea as the pork jowl was definitely welcoming with its highly umami and savory smoke and saltiness. Finally, the marigolds/edible flowers added a nice aesthetic touch to the dish while providing more of a bite to the dish as it didn't really have much of a flavor of its own other than to sop off the essence of the fish and the incorporating marinade.


Next came a dish that I ended up liking alot despite its intense richness. This is Manolin's take on the ever so iconic Seattle dish of Smoked Salmon. I must say that it's extremely rich in terms of smoke flavor and how thick it is that may be overwhelming for some; be that as it may, it certainly is a sinful treat if you're quite the smoked salmon lover like I am. It is topped with refreshing turnips that add a refreshing counter acidity to the richly cold-smoked salmon and the dill, though a classical accompaniment, adds the flavorful herbal component that gives smoked salmon a whole new character. On the side is crème fraîche topped with what I assume are olive oils that give the cooling tangy flavor of the crème fraîche a deep earthy component. With that said, the cooling tangy flavors of the crème fraîche was greatly needed to not only cut into the richness of the salmon, but that the smoky flavors along with the tangy from the crème fraîche gave the entire dish a wonderful combination profile which is basically a unique flavor of its own when the two are combined together.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Matt's in the Market: A brief lunch introduction to Seattle

I came back to Seattle in order to see Anthony Bourdain as he's back in town for another performance, but in November this time. To those who are not open to rainy and cloudy weather, I have to say that you're missing out on Seattle's beauty such as being immersed the pristine air as the colder temperatures allow such a clean and refreshing feeling if you were to breath it in along with being immersed in the too refreshing rain unlike in persistently sunny SoCal where it's not only muggy and polluted, but the constant sun without rain and cloudy weather and the heat makes being outdoors quite uncomfortable at times unlike what clear sunny days should be as pollution and the ugly attitudes of Southern California taint the atmosphere. Be that said, the moment I arrived from my Jet Blue flight to SEA, the skys were a refreshing grey as it's welcoming not to receive glare from the sun, along with the much cooler temperatures from the rain as well. Getting out of the airport building, I walked through the parking lot hallways to get directly to the Lightrail entrance where it only costed my a mere $3 one way to the city. Because of how easily accessible and cheap it is to get to the wonderful and friendly city, it makes Seattle an amazing destination that you want to come back again. After settling in my hotel which was the W (a nice, trendy hotel indeed) in Downtown which fortunately as it was only a couple of blocks from the University street station, I went immediately to the famous Pike Place Market filled with wonderful foods where Matt's in the Market is at: my first foodie destination.

Immediately noticing, there's a great open space withing the restaurant after walking through the multiple hallways and stairs to get there. It was completely packed with people, especially tourists, while there was plenty of people waiting in line. Luckily, I had a reservation, so waiting time was much shorter vs those who had came in without one.

This was exactly my view from my seat next to the window which was very spectactular; people watching without being starred, very uncomfortable eating when you're being glared at from people wanting to get into staring contests with you. It's so wonderful to get a breathtaking view of a famous historical destination of America as it's America's oldest farmers market.

Waiting for my dish, I got myself a cocktail which is called the Chateau Morgan. With tequila as its alcoholic base, it went wonderfully with the blood oranges that primarily flavors the cocktail. It was both refreshing and extremely tasty as the spicy tang from the tequila paired well with the citrus and sweet notes of the blood oranges.

As the lunch menu was limited to sandwiches, I had to preorder above: Seared Foie Gras with pistatios and black cherry gastrique. If you know me, I am quite the sucker for foie gras, especially seared. If you haven't already, you must try seared foie gras! This seared foie gras slices were prepared wonderfully: nice hard edges with a soft, juicy center. Slicing into the delicacy and having a bite, it was ever so luscious with its buttery meaty flavor that carried on its own sweetness and umami. The black cherry gastrique provided a wonderful contrasting tang to offset the richness of the foie gras in addition to adding more sweetness without being overwhelming. The pistachios added a nice crunch and another element of earthiness to the foie gras. The greens provided a refreshing contrast to cut into the richness while the petite piece of milkbread too was doing the same while providing more to eat as it's a small appetizer. The foie gras was wonderful as its one of the better preparations I've had, beating the one from Son of a Gun.

Unfortunately, I had to save room for my stomach (along with not wanting to cause a larger dent in my wallet just yet) for dinner which is why I'd stopped at the appetizer. This meal was a great way to kick off my culinary trip of Seattle. Maybe next time I'll give Matt's in the Market a fairer shot at dinner (or even go back for a fuller lunch) in order to try their classical preparations of Pacific NW cuisine.

Matt's in the Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Son of a Gun: A Refined Take of a Floridian Seafood Shack

As you know, Son of a Gun is by the LA chefs that own and run their extremely popular original restaurant, Animal, that has been ventured by many famous LA food bloggers, let alone Anthony Bourdain (he dines there in the LA episode of The Layover). Going in the restaurant, it's a small, quaint restaurant with awesome nautical items and knick-knacks on the wall (did not get to take a picture of the Aziz Ansari "Food Club" plaque (sad face)); very LA trendy, let alone many other "LA" things of which I'll get to soon. Whereas Animal is more meat-based, Son of a Gun is (you guessed it) of seafood. And like Animal, it's "tapas" styled where people share small plates. And where I say small, even someone like me thinks they've really done it on the small part, at least initially; gives a whole meaning to "LA portions at LA prices". Usually when people complain about sizes, I usually don't agree with them as they're used to "Cheesecake Factory" proportions and they don't really get the "Quality vs Quantity" mantra. And I understand that at some upper mid-range restaurants, the portions tend to run on the small side. However, this may be borderlining a bit too small, especially when factoring the prices initially and even towards other blogging dining enthusiasts. The chefs behind Son of a Gun/Animal, let alone the servers on the front line, are more than used to the comments by now, especially as the servers ask "are you still hungry?" near the end of the meal.

Nonetheless, the food's absolutely amazing and surprisingly filling at the end due to the spectacular richness of each dish that accumulates throughout the meal. After eating the dishes, their prices become more justifiable when you notice the high quality of the ingredients; my initial impressions had definitely changed for the better. Certainly tasting how extremely delicious all the dishes were mulls down the initial shock of the size. Regardless and a funny, less serious note: if you want to piss someone off if they're footing the bill such as a tasteless & cultureless (especially if they're the types that scoff at fine dining and traditional cuisines of non-Western cultures, let alone want to only eat processed foods and Americanized abominations all the time) pain-in-the-ass boss or troublesome in-laws (too tasteless & cultureless), take them here! Otherwise, you will not be disappointed dining here as the food's amazing, especially if you want to impress someone by dining at a trendy LA restaurant such as an out-of-towner, let alone a date.

Anyways, the party started out with some cocktails. Usually I go for strong cocktails such as an original Gin Martini or a Manhattan. However, I am a sucker for anything coconut as the Pina Colada was the cocktail that peaked my interest in them as a kid (made mocktails as a kid for my friends). So without shame, I said to the gentleman who took my order, "I'll have a Coconut Collins"; real manly. But as there was no judgement as there takes courage to order a "fruity" drink out in the open, there was also a great deal of acknowledgement as I ordered something truly delicious and sweet like coconut as he understood that I appreciated such gloriously crafted coconut-based cocktails that its flavors were traditionally appreciated back during the previous generations infatuated with Asian-Pacific island-y themes. #retrolove

The drink itself as it was gin-based hit well on all fronts. It was packed with coconut flavor while not at all being overwhelmingly sweet, nor the gin was too pronounced as the right amount was added. With all of that said, the drink had the right amount of viscosity which was not much as it went down easily which is extremely refreshing on a hot, summer day in Southern California; certainly could have gone for another one of those. Otherwise, the cocktails are amazing at Son of a Gun as I definitely wished their sister restaurant, Animal, would incorporate a full bar; one of the reasons why I chose to dine here instead of Animal; still hope to go there in the future though.

To start out, the party ordered the oysters of the day. Sorry, but I forgot which were they. However, I was informed that the restaurant orders what's best offered by the purveyor for the day. Along with the cucumber mignonette, cocktail sauce, freshly grated horseradish, and lemon wedges as condiments; the oysters themselves were very fresh and invigorating on the palate which made you want to slurp down as many as you can, even though they're $3 a pop.

Our first dish arrived which was the Amberjack with stone fruits (nectarines and cherries), and pistachio topped with herbs. The vinaigrette was surprising as it was smoky and loaded with highly savory umami in flavor. Along with the fresh ingredients of the fruity components providing a refreshing counterbalance to the heavy savory flavors, the buttery yet delicate flavors of the Amberjack flesh went intricately together as no component of the dish overwhelmed each other. What's amazing is that the acidity of the crudo was not at all overpowering as a lot of crudos are stereotypically known for.

What immediately followed was the Uni with Burrata. One might think "Does uni pair at all with cheese?" To some non-adventurous people, they would not dare to try the combination at all. However as I'm almost the opposite, I immediately put it in my mouth and was wonderfully surprised that the deep ocean-y flavors of the uni paired well with the smooth earthiness of the Burrata. Although it may seem small portion-wise on the plate, believe me: it is quite rich even though not overwhelming that a few bites will leave you satisfied.

Next is the other raw dish: Yellowfin Tuna stuffed with Avocado and Tortilla in Leche de Tigre (Citrus Marinade). Although it may not exactly be vibrant and abundant in color as what showing the greens of the avocado would have done since the tuna's covering them, but there's a great purpose for the Yellowfin Tuna to wrap over the avocado and tortilla chips: it prevents them from being soggy by the leche de tigre so that they won't lose their structural integrity in order to contribute to the overall textures for each bite: something hard with something soft. Also by feel, you can taste each component of the dish as they're melding together in your mouth. Like with the amberjack dish, the acidity from the leche de tigre was not at all overwhelming yet very savory. The refreshing flavors from the avocado and leche de tigre melded with the bite of the tortilla chips concludes well when the succulent flesh of the yellowtail tuna initially touches your tongue with such butteriness. This dish is something you must order like with the amberjack. So far what I've concluded was that Son of a Gun does their crudos well without being overpowering in acidity. Definitely be willing to order something raw at Son of a Gun, especially as it's a seafood restaurant in LA out of all the places in America. If there are some in your party that's unwilling to eat any seafood raw (unless if they have health complications), they're certainly missing out a huge component of what Son of a Gun has to offer.

As the East Coast has lots of places that serves the ever so amazing lobster roll that seems elusive towards us West Coast people due to its price and as it's viewed as a luxury since lobster's really expensive over here, Son of a Gun must offer their take on it and they're sure representing LA in terms of both quality and small portion. Before I continue, my understanding is that the "cold" version of the lobster meat being in mayo and celery is more authentic and more typically enjoyed on the East Coast as the "hot" buttered version is more appealing towards the masses while the butter masks the delicate flavor of the lobster. Don't get me wrong: although I'm generally more for traditional preparations over less-authentic alternatives, I would still have a soft spot for the hot version if there was both kinds offer to me. Nonetheless, Son of a Gun upgrades the cold version by using lemon aioli (yes, aioli is essentially mayonnaise but with garlic and it too has lemon juice in it, but I assume it's even more lemon-y in flavor) as its mixing agent with celery mixed in. Topped with chives and its cute & tiny bun well-toasted and buttered, it looks very refined in presentation and petite as if it were a toy model. Biting into it, the meat is cooked to the right point without it being tough and the aioli not overwhelming; very delicious indeed. The lemon wedge adds a little more zing which I feel is what the roll needs to complete itself. Although some might complain about its tiny portion and at $10 a pop, this here is a refined lobster roll: quality over quantity that everyone at the table must try when dining at Son of a Gun.

Next came the Smoked Mahi Fish Dip with Crackers accompanying it. As in the title, it has the smoky flavor but it's not overwhelming while the veggies provide a refreshing counterbalance and the cracker melds it all together. Certainly, this is a great dish to order for the table as a snack for in between the lighter dishes and the more heaver dishes that will proceed afterwards.

Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Hoisin, Herbs and Sriracha Mayo: this was a surprise winner. Looking at it, you might be thinking, "another overpriced, tiny seafood sandwich?" However when finally bitten into, this tiny sandwich was rich and loaded with lustful flavors from all components of the dish: the oily and raw umami from the shrimp and sriracha mayo, and the vibrant and refreshing cilantro as a counterbalance all going well together that makes quite the, perhaps, erotic symphony of flavors meshing well onto one's palate. If you open the top of the sandwich, it's like a glistening jewel from the oils of the mayo and shrimp combined with the contrasting green of the cilantro. Although you should try both, I have to say if you had to choose one or the other, I'd actually choose this over the lobster roll despite the latter being more prized in terms of the rarity & luxury of the ingredient. This sandwich is a "must order" if you're coming here for the first time.

Venturing into the "meat" portion of the meal, the Broadbent's Country Ham is served before us with Honey Butter and Hush Puppies (Fried Cornbatter). Certainly, this is America's take on the Italian Prosciutto. With that being said as an American, I wish more Americans are more aware that we produce luxurious and luscious goodness like this and want to eat this since we're so used to overly processed foods that we cannot avoid to eat that diminishes both the life of the animal when it was living and the quality of flavors when it's sacrificed for our nourishment. Before we'd digged in, the server told us to split the hush puppy in half, then smear the honey butter in between and put in between a piece of that sinfully salty (in a non-overwhelming way) ham as if you're eating miniature "sandwiches"; you'll soon wish you could either stuff as many as these flavor bombs into your mouth or that you can make one giant sandwich with one giant hush puppy slathered with that honey butter and stuffed with the meat of an entire cured ham leg (ok, that would be overdoing it as it would be salty as hell but still imagine it as if it won't cause your heart to work overtime as your BP would shoot up to ungodly levels pumping all of the sodium and other preservatives such as the nitrates throughout your body). Aside from the overly detailed description that you've just read, just eat... eat it all!

Before our last dish, a dish that has an ingredient that I can't essentially say no to, we ordered their Chilled Peel & Eat Shrimp with Lime Mustard Sauce. As they've arrived, the first thing that came into mind was how huge they are! These things were more like prawns, or just large-ass shrimp. Steamed with what I assume was Cajun seasoning popular in Southern seafood boils and then chilled, these shrimp were plump in terms of both mass and flavor. Usually I love and at times require sauce, but this time, I felt that the mustard sauce could be done without it even though I'd still would be willing to dip the shrimp in and eat it. However, I'd be fine with just the boil seasonings and a spritz of lime juice over it as the mustard sauce, even to me, seems a bit overkill. Otherwise, this too is a great dish for the table to share.

Finally comes the dish I've been looking for as it contains the holy ingredient that was unfortunately briefly banned in California but was overturned by the courts as it was preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act thus making the ban on hold as it's under appeals which means it can be sold now for the time being: Foie Gras with Apple Tartine, Cider Caramel, and Chervil. Once I put that seared foie gras into my mouth along with morsels of the cider caramel-drenched apple tartine accompanying it which adds symbiotic rich sweetness to the ever so luscious and savory foie gras, it was blissful heaven; something I rarely ever say. It was extremely nice again to experience foie gras, especially it seared vs it in a terrine/torchon form which makes itself both savory and sweet with the caramelization of the fats from the sear. Although I was blissfully enjoying my foie gras and the pairing of the apple tartine went spectacularly well together, I'd have to admit that the chervil didn't go well as usually herbs are meant to be refreshing in order to counter richness. However due to the intense chemical nature of the flavors of chervil, I felt that it did not blend well with the flavors of both the foie gras and the tartine thus fighting against them. Nonetheless, one can easily push off the chervil and enjoy the beautiful harmony of flavors of the foie gras and the richly sweet apple tartine. If you're looking to try foie gras for the first time, I highly would recommend trying it seared.

Despite some of the complaints that the portions are too small, even for "foodies", this accusation is countered by the fact that you'll definitely feel full due to the richness of each dish accumulating throughout the meal; trust me, you'll feel full after a couple of dishes. This is how the French eat rich foods and get away with being thin while not starving themselves as they savor it since it turns out that the richness can be quite overwhelming if eaten in great proportions thus acting as a deterrent from overeating. Most certainly, the mantra of Son of a Gun is "quality over quantity" which will impress the dining enthusiast inside you and your companions but will aggravate those who aren't willing to venture out into the realm of fine quality dining where the portions don't come close to that of the Cheesecake Factory or ignorantly scoff against it as "not being food" at all.

Although the portions may be a concern to some, my real concern is how LA, despite it being a sanctuary for authentic Latin and Asian cuisines that dominates other major American city, is not really hospitable to trendy, mid-range New American restaurants that has actual substance in their cuisine vs cities like New York, Seattle, let alone San Francisco. Sure there exist just simply trendy restaurants in LA, but I generally feel that the New American restaurants in the cities mentioned above have more credibility in their cooking vs ones down here. With all of that being said, there's definitely lot's of people here with money willing to spend it on expensive food; but the real question is "do they not only have the appreciation for the food they're spending their money on, but also the willingness to seek it out?" Be that as it may, I feel that restaurants like Animal and Son of a Gun are providing hope for the dining enthusiasts in the area challenging the notion of "LA not being a foodie town". Although yes, LA contains perhaps the best Latin cuisine that's affordable to most people and also the best sushi with authentic preparations that the prices may be kinda high for most people in the US; however like a powerful economy that depends on the Middle class, a great food city in America needs to have a strong presence of mid-range restaurants of New American cuisine which is very important as it incorporates not just Western, European influences, but also relatively newer (in terms of being tasted by American palates) Asian, Latin, and other non-European influence that incorporates all of those which resembles America as a mixing pot in order to form an original cuisine with both power and refinement that's democratically accessible. Dining at Son of a Gun, you certainly will enjoy what LA has to offer.

Son of a Gun Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, August 3, 2015

Rock Creek Seafood & Spirits, Morsel, and The London Plane: Breakfast and Brunch in Seattle

 Rock Creek Seafood & Spirits

There are certainly a lot of great breakfast and brunch places in Seattle; especially if you're looking to experience the stereotypical Seattle standard of it containing lots of seafood. However, the food climate's changed in Seattle, even though there are still places where you could get a dutch baby or a salmon eggs benedicts. Still wanting a seafood and very Seattle style brunch but with a modern take, we've made plans to go to Rock Creek Seafood in Fremont with having their famous Oyster Eggs Benedict. However, with the wrath of that bad porchetta sandwich from Meat & Bread still inflaming my digestive system, I decided to stay safe even though my friend and I are still went to Rock Creek.

Settled in, the restaurant's in an offkey, yet trendy location. Also, the interior is done tastefully even though I'll gripe about the music played as I found out too late that Rock Creek Seafood refers to their brunch as "Hip-Hop Brunch". Last time I checked, brunch isn't exactly "gangsta"; neither is the author typing this blogpost - zero street cred.

Anyways, with my stomach still suffering, I've decided not to take a chance and to go against my mantra of the first visit involving having to try the most popular dishes according to Yelp and food bloggers. However, that certainly didn't derail my brunch as they had some of their dinner items on the main brunch menu. One thing I have to say is that Rock Creek Seafood doesn't exactly stick to the whole "eating local" mantra, and neither does it say it does as a good chunk of their seafood comes from places outside of the PNW.

What I had to drink was a Salty Dog (not pictured) made with Bombay Sapphire gin. This should have been fine by me. However, with the stomach still not settled it from the Meat & Bread mishap, I could barely have finished half of it to which I ordered just plain grapefruit juice. To those that personally know me, my liver's essentially a furnace.

Anywho... My friend ordered the Public Enemy #1 which was barely legible on their separate "Hip-Hop Brunch" menu in a "gangsta" font. It's Pancakes with Ham, Turkey, Swiss Cheese (took it out due to his lactose-intolerance), and topped with Raspberry Jam and Powdered Sugar; "real gangsta". Regardless of the jab, he says it was pretty satisfying. Come to think of it, what was really ironic was that my friend is actually from East LA where all of the West Coast Gangsta Rap came from that I totally forgot to bring up to him when we were there.

I went with the Jumbo Carolina Prawns St. Helena, Brown Butter, Lemon, Rosemary, and Mc. Ewen & Sons Grits. Although the prawns weren't exactly jumbo, they were really delicious and not overcooked. The grits were wholesome; not sure if there as any cheese though. The brown butter broth was very peppery that brought it all together. Although the amount of food given seemed small, it was sort of fine by me as the peppery flavor of the dish seemed a bit too aggressive for most people during brunch which made my stomach glad it didn't have to endure so much heat early in the morning.

What was bothersome during brunch was that there's an actual DJ spinning vinyls in the restaurant. Not only roughly switching to different tracks, but the sudden base beats and distortion would really throw people off, especially if you were also hungover like me. It's funny as half the people were having "ladies brunch" with their champagne mimosas and the other people according to how they were dressed looked like they came out of an R.E.I.; once again, doesn't exude "gangsta-ness". Also after peeking into the WC, having scented oils isn't exactly "keepin' it real", although I'd admit I'm  very appreciative; once again, a guy with zero street cred.

All in all, the food was really spot on. Even though it didn't fit what outsiders had in mind of a "Seattle Brunch", it was really delicious. With that being said, the food is what really matters and I hope to endure it once again but with a stronger stomach as the Oyster Eggs Benedict will be in my crosshairs.


After hearing of all these biscuit places popping up these past couple of years along with plans of taking my friend to show him the University of Washington (which its campus including frat houses blows away all Southern Californian universities BTW), we've decided to head to Morsel in the U-District. If you recall "The Layover" episode in Seattle covering a place called "Nook", it had closed but reopened as Morsel with a different menu. After seeing the line, I was well prepared to be accustomed to their menu as I went through it like a breeze once the cashier took my order. By the way, the cashier is really awesome and extroverted that seemed to be capable of turning any frown upside down (excuse the cliché) that you had to tip the guy. However, he went quickly through me as it felt that judging by what I wore, I didn't exactly looked like the laid back UW student as I looked like I was posthumously adopted by Mr. Rodgers since I wore a navy cardigan, a graph check white dress shirt, chinos, and a freakin' tie. Regardless, he was still very friendly and nice.

I went with the "Spanish Fly" that had Prosciutto, Fried Egg, Manchego, Arugula, Mama Lil's Pepper Aioli w/ a Cheddar Chive Biscuit (choice of biscuit). Although seemingly a bit more refined compared to the more "smothered" items on the menu with cheese curds and gravy, it certainly was very rich with a considerable part due to the buttery cheddar chive biscuit by itself. It was very delicious with the cured prosciutto providing the animal protein needed to surge the endorphins of the brain during the beginning of the day, the fried egg which also does the same thing but tones down the other more aggressive components without getting too out of control, the manchego cheese providing a more earthy component to the biscuit, the pepper aioli providing a tang to the palate in order to kickstart the brain, and the arugula to provide a nice fresh counterbalace to refreshen the palate. Certainly, it was a damn good biscuit. Despite its small size, it was pretty rich which made it very filling that I couldn't finish it to which I felt bad for cause it was very delicious.

Part of Morsel is Sound Coffee that uses local Jersey milk to add to their coffees. As I've never had one of those pretty looking lattes with the heart pattern foam on top despite having lived in Seattle for 6 months before, I was pretty exited to try it. I went with their 8 oz latte which is a good size latte to start your day.  Not only did it have a hint of natural sweetness from the milk that I didn't need to add any sugar, it was very delicious. For a reference, it certainly beats a latte from Starbucks. There was also a nice amount of foam at the top.

So, if you're looking for a bite in the beginning of the day before you head onto campus either before a class or before you start a tour of the campus,  I highly recommend having it at Morsel.

The London Plane

Last but not least (really...), I made plans to visit The London Plane in the historic Pioneer Square that's created by the owners of Sitka & Spruce and Marigold & Mint before my flight later in the afternoon. Once in the vicinity, it was certainly beautiful the area it was in with its brick buildings and green trees to complement them; imagine Greenwich Village in NYC. Once in there and as others have said, it's as if Pier 1 Imports had a baby with a lighter toned Chez Panisse; just utterly beautiful and quaint along with a femininity that either of the sexes would appreciate.

After being given the menu, I then realized that all of the people of The London Plane all had friendly, disarming smiles from the waitress, to the cashier, and all the way to the cook who had told me where the WC was. Excited from the anticipation of constantly viewing their menu on their side, I confirmed with the menu before me of what I wanted to order. Although their menu has changed from that listed on the website, I still had a general idea of what to order.

What usually pops up a lot on their Yelp page are the pictures of their avocado toast. However, this time, it was Curried Avocado, Shaved Radish, Carrot, Mustard Greens, and Cilantro. They certainly give you a lot as the shaved vegetables on top hide the rest of the toast. When eaten, it certainly lived up to its reputation. The curried avocado paired well with the bread with its distinct curry flavors and freshness from what seemed to be recently smashed avocados. The vegetables on top seemed lightly pickled that their freshness and primarily their acidity uplifted the flavors of the avocado to which they all went together with the bread inducing a pleasurable sensation when one eats carbs. This was a spectacular dish. There might be some naysayers that think it's not worth the $10, but I doubt they haven't tried it yet. This avocado toast (which its preparation will change throughout the year) is a must have to order at The London Plane.

Next came the New Potatoes, Sweet onions, Sultanas & Fennel w/ Dill & Mustard Aioli. This definitely isn't your average potato salad.  The New Potatoes are essentially different kinds of potatoes (purple, red, yellow) that add to the dish's aesthetic along with providing different flavors, although nuanced. The sweet onions provided that needed tang to go along with the rest of the salad and the sultanas (raisins) contributed sweetness that is an essential part to complete the dish. Finally, the fennel, dill and mustard aioli all provided the freshness, tang and acidity to meld all the components together to form a unique, harmonious flavor on the palate.

Unfortunately and a heads up: I couldn't finish either the dishes as I had to make some room for the other in my stomach. You might be overwhelmed by the menu and want to order as much as you can. But as you'll most likely arrive in the beginning of the day where your stomach can't hold much, I'd definitely suggest to order just one thing off of their main menu, and the addition of a pastry at most if you're really hungry. With that being said, along with their variety and with it constantly changing, this is a great spot for Seattleites to have their daily breakfast right before work.

I did order some additional take out from The London Plane so that the family could try some of Matt Dillon's team's wonderful cooking by bring them on the plane ride back. I would have wanted to bring the avocado toast, but that would have oxidized as did my left over piece that I too brought home with me. I chose the Marin Breakfast Cheese, Roasted Cherries & Honey. Granted, it may have not looked as elegant as plated when dining in. However, it was still pretty delicious (not pictured). The cheese itself was firm yet not overly pungent which is great for those just getting up in the morning. The honey and the roasted cherries both provided a sweetness that went well with the cheese and the bread, whereas the roasted cherries along brought some needed tart that would have perked up the eater. Delicious nonetheless, even though the family preferred Salumi's Prosciutto, Fig, and Goat Cheese sandwich instead, but that's on another class on its own.

Ultimately, I was very impressed with The London Plane. It certainly is a new, different breed of the Seattle breakfast. Definitely if you're struggling to find breakfast places, even more so if you're not looking for brunch which The London Plane does also have, do add it to your list if you're an out of towner. If you currently live in the city, why haven't you made the small trek yet to The London Plane if you haven't done so already? Even with all of that being said, you certainly wont be disappointed at all.

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sitka & Spruce (2nd Visit): Delicious Wholesome Food that You Actually Feel Good Eating

Like with my last visit at Sitka & Spruce, the highlight of their food came up as not only the food's healthy as their sources are organic and farm-to-table, but it all tastes delicious which seems sadly counter-intuitive in today's world of processed food and chains. We certainly need more restaurants like S&S throughout the country. Not only would it make us healthier, but it'll teach us how to appreciate and enjoy wholesome food.

Bringing my friend who's from Southern California, he definitely became exposed to restaurants that highlight farm-to-table dining such as The Walrus and the Carpenter which utilizes not only organic ingredients that are much more healthier for your body but also local ingredients highlighting the bounty of the Pacific Northwest.

Now, the ingredients listed on the menu might make some people wonder if it's actually food like "ash roasted shallot", "cured yolk", "burnt honey", "tonnato", etc.. But then again, we ingest artificial compounds such as Acesulfame Potassium (artificial sweetner), Synthetic Trans Fats, Blue # 2, etc.. I'm not saying to never eat processed foods (I certainly still do, and mostly as I'm not overtly aware at the time), but we definitely need to intake more healthier foods in our diet and we also need to demand that it should taste good as well, which is why Sitka & Spruce is a forerunner of today's sought-after restaurants.

If you've ever been to the restaurant or the Melrose Market building that it's in, the interior is very inviting, open, and appropriately artistically modern where it looks like it's done with taste.

This is our meal before the Bourdain show at The Paramount Theater nearby where we'd thought he was going to have a meal prior. Alas, that didn't come true even though the restaurant was filled with people going to the show afterwards.

As it was still sorta hot, especially after walking from our AirBnB, I needed something refreshing for a cocktail. The cocktail list at S&S looks very well thought-out after looking the components for each cocktail. Unlike some of the bars that horribly fail with their mixology, S&S seems to craft cocktails using the right amount of restraint. The cocktail I ordered was no exception which was titled "Grapefruit" which has Blanco Tequila, Salted Grapefruit Cordial, Lime, Campari, and Soda. Not only was it refreshing but all of the components worked together. Some people might complain if they had the drink of not being stiff enough. I digress as the tequila flavor was still bold but without the overwhelming taste of alcohol/ethanol that would have ruined the cocktail; right amount was added. The salted grapefruit and lime really went along with the soda water to make it refreshing while guzzling it down. After ordering it first and with it being a relatively hot day in Seattle, other people got the idea of ordering one for the table.

This is the dish that really surprised my friend of how flavorful and delicious vegetables can be. Who knew green leafy vegetables grilled could be so damn good. This was the Grilled Escarole, Salted Berries, Apricots, Mustard & Shave Lardo. Each component tasted good alone, well maybe except the mustard aioli by itself. The grilling brought out the flavors of the escarole as the burnt flavors add another dimension. The apricots had more of a savory flavor instead as it too was grilled. The fatty lardo was just oozing with lusciousness that it felt like a sin just eating that alone. Also, the salted berries were delicious providing acidity on the palate. However, this is the real magic of S&S: when eating all of the components together, it's like if Gestalt's concept of the whole being greater than the sum of each individual part became experienced through S&S food. Really, when eating all of the components together, they create a symphony, a unique and intricate flavor that its magnitude can only be felt by the tongue that's very difficult to describe. Certainly, this dish was a success and not the only one.

Before proceeding to the next dish, I ordered a non-sparkling Luberon Rosé from Chateau La Canorgue. It being a rose, I felt it would have the uncanny capability of going well with fish yet subtly providing an earthy element to the bounties of the sea.

Next came a dish that I was personally excited for since the PNW specializes in salmon and also I anticipated it more as one of the top restaurants in Seattle was preparing it. Smoked Potatoes, Cured Salmon, Seaweed, Cured Yolk (aioli), and Shaved Horseradish. Before I tasted all of the components together, I've tasted each as much as I could (won't be eating that lone speck of shaved horseradish). The cured salmon had the appropriate level of salt that certainly didn't overwhelm the essence of the fish. Along with flavor, the texture of the salmon was moist which added more pleasure to the palate. Even more so, the smoked potatoes were not only moist and not overcooked but the level of the smoky flavor didn't overwhelm and instead complemented the other components of the dish such as the salmon. When all eaten together, the saltiness from the cured salmon, the earthiness and smokiness from the... smoked potatoes, the acidity and tartness from the cured yolk aioli, the bite from the seaweed, along with the refreshing parsley and shaved horseradish all resonated with each other. I was certainly glad to try this dish.

The first of the mains came: Albacore Tuna, White Cucumbers, Turnips, Red Currants, and Nasturtium (the flowers) in a Seafood Fumé (broth). The albacore tuna was plump in texture while its raw flesh tasted clean and harbored the essence of the fish. On the sides, the sear isn't overly aggressive as the seared crust provided a nice counterbalance in both texture and flavor. The turnips are some of the best I've had. Even my friend complemented and was surprised by them as he says they're usually mushy and horrible tasting; not these ones. In addition to being plump, the seafood fumé really brought out the delicate earthy flavors of the turnip. The white cucumbers and lettuces seemed slightly pickled which was great as it provided some refreshing acidity. Once again, eaten together created a harmony on my palate.

Before receiving the lamb dish,  I had actually wanted to order a cabernet sauvignon, but they didn't have any by the glass. With the help of the waitress, I went with another deep, earthy red which I ordered the Chinon "Les Granges" by Domain Bernard Baudry in the famous Loire Valley. Although definitely earthy, the wine was very fragrant to which I thought paired well with the upcoming lamb dish.

The other main came: Grilled Lamb Leg & Belly, Roasted Carrots, S&S' Yogurt, and Burnt Honey. This dish was certainly a delight of its own. The lamb belly was succulent and certainly sips from the red wine help cut the gaminess while working will with the bold, earthy flavors of the lamb and just melding well with the fatty components in addition. The lamb leg was cooked to a nice medium that seemed appropriate to satisfy a wide range of diners. Although I felt it could have been more moist, it was still delicious while not having the same level of gamey flavors like the belly. The yogurt itself was tart and fresh tasting. For it being one of the lone vegetables, the roasted carrot was sweet while its roasting brought out that particular flavor even more. When eaten all together, especially with having the piece of mint to not only counter the gaminess and provide refreshment on the palate, it seemed like a marriage between Mediterranean/Middle Eastern and Western flavors.

Before the Anthony Bourdain show and wanting to also adhere to a personal tradition, I went with a digestif of Cognac which was a Guillon Painturaud VSOP. Delicate it was and how spontaneously soothed the palate, it was a great way to end the meal.

It certainly was a great last dinner at Seattle at Sitka & Spruce. Once again, it lived to not only live up to my expectations but surprised me even further. My friend even told me that this was his favorite meal, even beating Canlis. What I've also told the waiter was that vegetables haven't tasted as good until I've first dined at S&S. When we were children, I can imagine we weren't all fond of vegetables that our parents made for us. If however they'd prepared it like the talented chefs at S&S, I'm pretty sure we'd have much different perceptions. If you're coming into Seattle and want to try something other than the familiar chain restaurant while wanting to truly experience PNW cuisine, you must eat at Sitka & Spruce.

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