Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sitka and Spruce: The Brunch Experience from my Favorite Seattle Restaurant; A Unique Seattle Brunch Experience Indeed

If you haven't realized by now or just flat out don't know, Seattle is one of the best cities for Brunch. I'm not sure why it became to be but I can tell you why it's good. There are so many unique styles and takes on brunch dishes in Seattle whether it be completely original such as the Dutch Baby, out-of-nowhere inventive like the brunch of this post, or it could be a unique Seattle (specifically seafood) take on classics such as a Smoked Salmon or even a Dungeness Crab Eggs Benedict. I've been wanting to try some real uniquely Seattle brunch dishes for quite some time, and classic ones I might add in order to have authentic and traditional brunch experience in Seattle. However because I only had one weekend morning which was on a Sunday, I could only have one brunch meal. In addition, I had planned plenty of restaurants for my tiny 3-day trip, and I had to make room in order to have a meal at my most favorite restaurant in Seattle which is Sitka & Spruce. If you haven't read my previous posts, why S&S is my favorite is because the restaurant offers such a unique cooking style along with the equally unique fresh farm-to-table local ingredients that no other restaurant in any other city could offer; S&S is a true Seattle restaurant. With all of those factors mentioned, I had decided to give S&S my one and only brunch spot.

Walking inside, it's certainly lovely with its rustic charm and exposed brick. After walking in with no one in line luckily but at the same time wondering why there wasn't enough people at brunch, I sat at the table where I sat all of my previous times at, which is a very difficult feat if you're an out of towner.

 
 

Going over the menu, which I do apologize for not taking a pic of, I ordered a sparkling rosé to quench my rosé cravings while I have a drink to accomplish the task of choosing the only item I could order for my one and only brunch in Seattle. Before I continue further, I must voice of how backwards it is for Sitka & Spruce to have a no-hard-alcohol policy for brunch, especially as I remembered previously how they had it available during lunch when Seattleites have to head back to work. They should reverse the policy as not only is a brunch a relatively special occasion, but how hard alcohol is certainly a welcome when the mimosa has far been way too long in its seat as "designated brunch drink"; of course, a Bloody Mary made with vodka is a great example of brunch utilizing hard alcohol.











Though their bread does usually come at a charge, I'm under the impression they do give some of it complementary. Usually bread is just an afterthought. However, their bread is from the Columbia City Bakery (I'm pretty sure) is certainly phenominal, especially with that unique white crust formed on the bottom of a baguette that only an authentic and truly artisan bread can make. Certainly, the whipped butter was an amazing complement to the extremely delicious baguette.







I ordered their Salmon 'Nduja with Pears, Dills and their seeds on top of a cracker. Although this looked extremely wonderful and delicious, I had to actually ask the waiter for instructions on how to eat the large cracker. He'd recommend that it be broken/cracked into smaller, bite-sized pieces with a knife. The 'nduja itself was loaded with fresh salmon flavor that the Pacific NW is known for, albeit a tad bit too spicy. Certainly the refreshingness of the pears and their sweetness not only complemented the main flavors but even quelled the spiciness as well. The Dill and seeds added an herbal element needed to completely tie the dish in together. Overall, this was a wonderful dish to have at brunch at S&S despite its difficulty in eating the whole thing; certainly would recommend it to those considering brunch at the restaurant.

 



After I've received my main dish and to make up for their deficiency in hard-alcohol, I've actually ordered quite a few drinks (and not all at once, mind you). First was a brut cavat which was just as dry and even a tad bit fruity compared to a brut French Champagne as cavat is Spanish. Next was their Black Currant cocktail. This was very delicious and definitely resembled a White Wine Spritzer
while the refreshing black currants added a sweet yet subtly tangy touch that makes the fruit itself delicious to drink if you're able to taste it yourself. My final cocktail was the Breakfast Daiquiri as it was based with some sort of wine that I forgot, again due to the restaurant not having hard alcohol available. It ws very good nonetheless with the right touch of coffee flavor without being too bitter. Even with the lack of hard alcohol, I'd certainly recommend giving these a try despite I feel management should read this blog post in order to  change their policies.

Brunch at S&S was very delicious and amazing as it's certainly a change from the stereotypical Seattle brunch experience of Dungeness Crab Eggs Benedict, Lox, and Dutch Babies. If you're a Seattleite, I'd highly recommend coming here and pay a visit to have brunch you rarely encounter. However, if you're an out of towner looking for the traditional Seattle brunch experience, I'd actually hold having brunch here for a bit until you know you could have brunch in Seattle at later times.



Saturday, January 28, 2017

Manolin: One of Seattle's Trendiest Restaurants Specializing in 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.



Moving on to the next drink, I wanted something more darker in flavor yet would make an exception for anything "coconutty or pineapple-y". Luckily, there was a cocktail that fit all of those prerequisites called the Sloop John B. I honestly don't know where the name of the cocktail came from but with Pineapple Whiskey, rum, toasted coconut, and lemon; it's a certainly an odd concoction of ingredients like how the words for the name of the cocktail were construed. It definitely works really well as a drink that progresses mid-meal because yes, it does have a darker whiskey component reserved for later in the meal, there is a citrusy-acidic components from the pineapple and lemon that is invigorating on the palate without burning it out like what straight whiskey could do which is why, especially an aggressively peaty one like Laphroaig (my personal favorite Scotch beating out Macallan) is reserved for the end as a digestif.




The final dish given was one of the main signature dishes of Manolin: Grilled Beef with butterball potatoes, radishes, and whipped lardo topped with an Italian anchovy sauce called Colatura. This dish was heavenly! In addition, the beef was cooked to the universally ideal point of medium rare (Sorry, Well Doners) with the grillman keeping a keen eye on the beef in order for a fabulous consistency in the quality of the cooking of the beef to be reached which is highly necessary in a restaurant for any ingredient being cooked. Yes, Manolin should have its seafood dishes primarily do that job as that what it more focuses in. No doubt, the ingredients were high quality. With that being said, it is an absolute steal and probably the best price for a high quality steak in Seattle. The beef itself was lean but in no way lacking in intense fatty flavor like there is with a ribeye, though it was very obvious that the complex subtle flavors of high quality beef resembling earthiness and umami were there as it's a lean, tender cut. Of course, the whipped Lardo was there to add more pronounced fatty flavors if you wanted to add it for each custom bite. The anchovy Colatura sauce was very rich and full of glutamic umami from both the anchovies and the red wine added to the sauce itself; quite the umami bomb - a legitimate use of that term I must say! In addition, the vegetables, both the radishes and butterball potatoes were divine in earthiness; the flavors of the soil, more particularly its essence, could be tasted without you actually having it in your mouth which would certainly be disgusting. Like with Sitka and Spruce, Manolin knows how to cook its vegetables of which I'm starting to realize it as a trait of a successful, legitimate Seattle restaurant that caters to dining enthusiasts.

For the dish, I had actually wanted a sparkling rosé to go with it as I was still in a mood for something sparkling but needed a red-ish wine to go with the beef. I had saw a man poor something sparkling but with the hue of the dim lights, I thought he was pouring a sparkling rosé and just asked for the glass he was pouring which he was more than happily to oblige. I tried it but had realized it was an extremely dry French Cidre which is the Florence Loisel "Gosne" cidre. French (or European) Cidres aren't exactly sweet but it kind of has this, how shall I put it, "stinky flavor" that's an acquired taste that resembles the smell of a stable; basically the more "stable-y" the better... Be that as it may, I did find it to be actually really delicious but wanted a sparkling rosé. When one of the extremely attentive waitresses noticed how I had more of a preference for a glass of sparkling rosé, she was more than willing to want to change it at no charge. I forgot the name of this sparkling rosé but it was very satisfying and refreshing. With all of that said, I wanted to note the attentiveness that went beyond the call of duty from the staff at Manolin. I have to say that not only do the staff look extremely pleasant in physical appearances as Seattleites love to be outdoorsy, but they are very kind on the inside unlike how it sort of is down here in SoCal (especially Orange County and San Diego) with being shallow in preference for appearances rather than for kind and amazing personalities.


At the end of the spectacular service and a fabulous meal, I requested for something mild for my end-of-meal Scotch, The Glenlivet 12 year is a great Scotch especially for beginners and those who want to start developing a taste for it. Well rounded indeed without being aggressively peaty like a Laphroaig as I've eaten so much that my stomach couldn't take it, that character of the Scotch was much appreciative. After I finished my Scotch, I was thanked for coming over for the first time from the warm staff as they also wished for me to return as well which I'm definitely more than willing to do so, especially if I were to bring friends and family to try uniquely Seattle restaurants that are not only highly refined and mind-blowingly delicious, but preferential to those that want an amazing culinary experience, yet also want to avoid the tourist traps as well since they're out of towners (but this also applies for local Seattleites as well looking for local gems).



Unfortunately with the fatigue I had experienced along with my stomach being bloated from eating way too much, I couldn't go to the concert I wanted to attend to which was the Snow Cap Party at Pyramid Breweries which had Robert DeLong headlining as I haven't been to a concert in a long time. Though bummed out, I had a nice, decadant Chocolate Cake from The W room service with a really long name I must note. With layers of chocolate and mint-chocolate cream on top along with the cooling whipped cream and the tartness of the raspberries to invigorate one's palate, it certainly made up me missing the concert. After being tired from walking and traveling from SeaTac airport within the same day, it is certainly exquisite and longing to have room service, especially that I have to say that it feels good to lay off the booze in this case as an accompanying ginger ale was definitely warranted to further quench one's thirst after being dehydrated from all of that walking while of course being settling on the stomach after a very filling, intense meal. If any of you plan on staying at The W, especially in Seattle, I highly recommend that you order the chocolate cake (once again, it had a very long name on the menu), especially as it's available late night and it's something for you if you want to have a luscious and luxurious heavenly bite while being extremely settling for your stomach at the end of the day (with a ginger ale, of course that in this situation it's fine to have soda with cake), all cozy in your bed while you watch free HBO.




Manolin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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