Queen City Grill’s Crowning Glory

April 29, 2009

The Dungeness Crabcakes at Queen City Grill in downtown Seattle deliver the goods with plenty of crab and not much filler.

We’ve always loved the rather dark, romantic vibe at Queen City Grill in downtown Seattle. But, like many of our favorite restos, because we have to eat around a lot, we only experience it once or twice a year. 

Lucky us on a recent Saturday evening, when the Dungeness Crabcakes with Remoulade Sauce were tastin’ good (lots of crab, little filler) with a glass of Taittinger Brut. 

Queen City Grill\'s Olive-Oil-Poached Alaskan King Salmon was done medium-rare in the middle and tender on the outside.

The venerable Queen’s Olive-Oil-Poached Alaskan King Salmon was done medium-rare in the middle and tender on the outside. Lately I’m intrigued by this gentle way of cooking seafood (more commonly tuna). A bed of tasty beans of all sorts and a ruff of marinated fennel completed this complex and satisfying dish.

A bottle of Sineann 2006 Schindler Vineyard Pinot Noir was the perfect foil, a bold, fruit-forward Pinot rife with dark cherries (!), 14.8% alcohol (wow!), and a beautiful glass closure. 

Brasa\'s Olive-Oil-Poached Salmon was succulent and satisfying.

Last month, during Seattle’s ever-popular “30 for $30” campaign during which 30 restaurants offer three-course meals for $30, we enjoyed a succulent Olive-Oil-Poached Salmon at Brasa. The salmon was served atop a rich celery-root purée along with a handful of beans, shaved fennel, and a dusting of fresh dill. 

Brasa Octopus embraces the palate.

Just for good measure, here’s the piquant and spicy (oh-so-good!) Grilled Octopus that’s an appetizer featured on Brasa’s regular menu.

FLOSS at Urbane

April 26, 2009

While listening to a podcast of a workshop from the 2007 annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals on culinary tourism, I discovered a new acronym. . .FLOSS. FLOSS stands for Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal, and Sustainable, which perfectly describes the mission at Urbane, the new restaurant in the Olive 8 Hyatt Hotel and Residences in downtown Seattle. 

The lovely Artichoke Salad at Urbane was a taste of spring.

We loved this place, which preaches FLOSS without getting all pretentious and precious about it. Take the Artichoke Salad, for instance, a lovely mound of marinated artichokes (although the menu claimed they were “braised,” I don’t think they’d ever touched a flame), fava beans, and tender baby pea shoots. This dish was the essence of spring, served with a flurry of freshly grated Parmesan and lightly dressed in a lemon-y vinaigrette.

Urbane\'s Seared Halibut was served with nettles and carrot emulsion.

Seared Halibut with Nettles and Carrot Emulsion (denser, richer, and infinitely more satisfying than the trendy foams served everywhere nowadays!) was perfectly cooked and so beautiful I (almost) hated to eat it.

Urbane\'s Herb-Braised Half Chicken was poetry on a plate (and in a crock).

The Herb-Braised Half Chicken (free-range, of course) was served in a lovely earthenware crock with plenty of chicken jus that wilted the generous portion of Holmquist Hazelnut Watercress Salad.

Although we were trying to make a movie and didn’t have time for dessert, we were tempted by the Syrup-Poached Rhubarb with Lemon Pound Cake and the Trailing Blackberry Blintz. The wine list is made up of entirely Washington wines (hooray!), with a cavalcade of venerable names such as Betz Family Winery, DeLille Cellars, and Fidelitas.

Ambience here is upscale, with a glittery bar and a dining room that looks out over the streetscape yet is divided into sections by hanging metal beads which keeps it intimate. There aren’t any tablecloths, the bread comes in a handsome wooden bread box, and service is warm yet unobtrusive.

We noted happy families, groups of young women celebrating with a girls’ night out, and older folks like us. This is the kind of restaurant with something for everyone that makes you want to return for the next intriguing dish, since the FLOSS-y menu is ever-changing.  


Taste WA

April 23, 2009

Just one line-up of bottles from Taste WA 2009.

On Sunday, April 5, 3,500 Washington wine lovers flocked to the Taste Washington! Grand Tasting at Qwest Field Event Center, according to a press release issued by the Washington Wine Commission. More Washington wineries–more than 225–poured than ever before, and a record number of restaurants–more than 60–served delicious bites.

Though ticket sales were down slightly from 2008, according to the Commission, many wineries and exhibitors noted the high degree of wine knowledge and enthusiasm of the attendees. Several expressed their satisfaction in interacting with wine consumers who seemed extremely dedicated to tasting and expanding their knowledge of Washington wine.

The educational seminars at this year’s Taste Washington proved very popular. These seminars included panel discussions on a variety of topics, including tastings of several different wines from a single vineyard or single grape variety. There were also seminars on new developments in winemaking in Washington state, whether by a second-generation family winemaker or in a converted old firehouse from WWII. We enjoyed learning more about the venerable Klipsun and Champoux Vineyards with Klipsun owner Patricia Gelles and Champoux owner and grower Paul Champoux. 

Wine experts from the Northwest and around the country were recruited to speak. The speakers included Ray Isle of Food & Wine magazine; Bruce Schoenfeld of Travel + Leisure magazine; John Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle; Patrick Comiskey of Wine & Spirits magazine and the Los Angeles Times; noted Northwest wine expert Paul Gregutt; Alder Yarrow of Vinography.com, widely regarded as the world’s leading wine blog; and master sommelier Michael Jordan, global wine manager for Disney properties.

The blind tasting at Taste WA.

To top it all off, a game show-style seminar gave audience members a chance to win prizes through a blind taste-off of Washington wines and similar wines from around the globe. With six wines to decipher, it was quite challenging, even for the Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers. Here’s Washington Wine Commission director of education and Master Sommelier Shayn Bjornholm talking up the panelists while wearing his famous powder-blue tuxedo.


First in the City!

April 19, 2009

Ice cream rises to new heights at Joule in Seattle\'s Wallingford neighborhood.

You know we’ve blogged about our wonderful experiences at Joule restaurant in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood several times before. But during a recent visit, chef Rachel Yang sent over her newest creation. . .Black Sesame Ice Cream with Chocolate-Caramel Ganache. Though it sounded weird, it tasted divine. The cool, musky ice cream paired perfectly with the thick, creamy, not-too-sweet chocolate-caramel sauce. 

Tempting Txori

April 16, 2009

We often eat at food palaces, places with multi-course tasting menus and pages-long wine lists. And that can be loads of fun.

But sometimes we just want to roll up our sleeves, stroll outside our condominium building without a reservation or a definite restaurant in mind, and end up wherever our hearts (and stomachs) lead us.

Which is just what happened one evening as we headed up First Avenue and took a quick detour up to Second. It was early for us (5:30), especially early for a Saturday night and we were delighted to see that Txori, the sister restaurant to Harvest Vine, had a table or two available. 

A trio of small plates shows the artistry at work at Txori in Seattle\'s Belltown neighborhood.

We quickly ordered a handful of appetizers, including the three shown above: Stuffed Squid in Its Ink; Clams with White Beans, Garlic, and Parsley; and Braised Chicken with a Piquillo Pepper and Button Mushroom. 

Txori Lentil Soup is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat!

Txori Eggplant makes a tummy-filling dish.

Not quite sated, we added two specials of the day–a bowl of Lentil Soup and an order of Eggplant with a Tomato Sauce and Anchovy.

Txori\'s Cheesecake makes a sweet finale to any meal.

Several glasses of wine, ranging from a Brut Rosé Cava (dry and good!) to Fuente del Conde 2006 Rosé to Protos Roble 2006 Ribera del Duero, paired perfectly with the savory food. And our sweet tooths were sated with a mini slice of cheescake–just two bites apiece–and perfect!





Making The List

April 14, 2009

We’ve always been big fans of Leo Varchetta’s swanky Barolo Ristorante on Westlake Avenue near the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle. We were also big fans of The Apartment, a narrow bar and eatery in Belltown in the same block as Flying Fish and Umi Sake House.

So we were sorry when The Apartment closed, but were happy when Leo reopened the space as The List. On The WIne List (get it?!?!) in the red by-the-glass category you’ll find 11 options, including two Spanish Garnachas (Grenaches), along with a Chianti, Firesteed (CA) Pinot Noir and Hedges “Three Vineyards. 

The whites by the glass include a California and Italian Pinot Grigio, a California and Washington (Chateau Ste. Michelle) Sauv Blanc, one Chard and a Chard Blend (Hedges CMS). Bottles range from $24 (for a bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio) to $350 (for a bottle of Cristal) and run the gamut around the world. 

As you’d expect, the ambience is pure romance and very red. Here’s a short clip of the bar scene. Making The List in Belltown

The Cocktail List features the Belltown Orange (Stoli orange, lime, chambord), an Italian Lemondrop, and the X-Rated Tini (Passion fruit, mango, Finlandia grapefruit vodka).

On The Food List you’ll discover some of the luxurious sorts of dishes we’ve come to know and love at Barolo: Gnocchi with Black Truffle Cream, Grilled Sea Bass with a Port-Wine Reduction, and White Wine Clams. 

Happy Hour takes place daily 4-6:30 p.m. and Sunday-Thursday 10-midnight, with all food items half off; bottle of red or white wine $14; glass of red or white $3.75; and beer $2.95. 

Dining at Tulalip Resort Casino

April 13, 2009

During a Saturday overnight stay in the Tulalip Suite at Tulalip Resort Casino in Marysville, Washington, we dined with Seattle public relations maven Lorne Richmond, and his lovely wife Elizabeth (Liz). We met promptly at 6:30 in the resort’s spacious lobby and went on a brief tour of some of Tulalip’s many ameneties such as a glittery nightclub lounge, spa, and 1,200-slot casino. 

We began our meal at Blackfish, a seafood-centric restaurant that specializes in cooking wild salmon in the traditional Indian manner–over ironwood sticks. 

Cooking salmon in the traditional manner at Blackfish restaurant at Tulalip Resort Casino in Marysville, Washington.

Here we enjoyed some tasty crabcakes served over vegetable-filled corncakes. The smoked salmon appetizer was also a winner. Both paired well with a well-balanced Aligote chosen by Tulalip sommelier Tom Thompson.

After appetizers, we headed next door to Tulalip Bay, the resort’s top-shelf restaurant. We were most impressed by the private dining room (where Tulalip elders meet to discuss tribal business) and were the first press people ever to tour the wine cellar. 

The impressive new wine cellar at Tulalip Resort Casino in Marysville, Washington.

Here Tom opened a killer Sonoma Valley Pinot and several red wines. The temperature-controlled, state-of-the-art cellar is centered by a granite table for intimate tastings. There are 4,000 bottles. Of the 500 selections, 35% are come from Washington. Sommelier Tom and Chef Dean Shinagawa (formerly of the Roy’s branch in Seattle) orchestrate monthly food-and-wine pairings by region and host winemaker dinners throughout the year.

Every Friday and Saturday night, Tom offers a flight of wines (four 3-ounce pours) from some of the state’s most sought-after boutique wineries such as Leonetti, Quilceda Creek, Betz Family Winery, Tamarack, and DeLille Cellars.

During dinner we enjoyed ordering a variety of dishes off Chef Dean’s five-course tasting menu as well as the à la carte menu. Here’s my entrée from the tasting menu, a colorful, beautifully plated, and well-prepared Oven-Roasted Steelhead Salmon with Wild Rice Quinoa Cake, Pear-Pepper Relish, and Huckleberry Gastrique. 

My Steelhead with Berry Sauce at Tulalip Resort Casino in Marysville, Washington.


Harbingers of Spring

April 10, 2009

Those of us who live in the great Pacific Northwest have experienced one of the roughest winters ever recorded, with six (or seven?!?!) snowfalls, much lower-than-average temperatures, much higher-than-average precipitation levels, and high winds. April Fools’ Day played a trick on us all when snow fell in downtown Seattle (briefly) and the suburbs (where is actually accumulated). The sun finally appeared on April 7, and we are keeping fingers crossed that it will hang around for at least awhile.

The first fresh halibut of 2009 à la Braiden.

Meanwhile, for intrepid Pike Place Market-goers such as myself, the first signs of spring have (thankfully) at last finally begun to appear. Here’s some of the first-of-the-year fresh halibut from Pure Food Fish that I simply grilled with sea salt, shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice), and Tom Douglas Seattle Kitchen Seafood Rub.

Fresh cherry blossoms from the Pike Place Market are a harbinger of spring.

And here are some fragrant cherry blossoms, fresh from my favorite flower farmer in the Pike Place Market, Lita Mendez, co-owner with her husband John, of John & Lita’s Produce and Flowers.

Aw, Shuck(ers)!

April 4, 2009

One of our favorite places for Saturday lunch is at Shuckers in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. It’s clubby in a dark-wood and leather-armchair sort of way, with fresh oysters on the half shell embedded in crunchy ice just waiting to be opened and a glittery traditional back bar. Here’s the yummy Shuckers Seafood Chowder and half a dozen assorted oysters, which more than qualify as a Dish of the Day!

Lunch at Shuckers always includes Seafood Chowder and half a dozen oysters on the half shell.


Roasted Halibut with Shellfish Cioppino

April 1, 2009

Cioppino is a traditional Italian seafood stew.

Roasted Halibut with Shellfish Cioppino

Varietal: Pinot Gris

Serves 6

Cioppino (pictured above) is a classic seafood stew whose origins can be traced to the Italian fishers of San Francisco. Bouillabaisse is a similar tradition in France. You’ll enjoy the many kinds of seafood in this cioppino recipe from Mission Hill Family Estate in Westbank, British Columbia—everything from clams and mussels to spot prawns and octopus (!). And unlike many fishermen’s stews that are thick and tomato-based, this one relies on fish stock (or clam broth) and just a hint of tomato, plus the unmistakable flavors of fennel and crushed red pepper flakes, to create a gently perfumed, aromatic broth with a bit of a kick. The final crowning touch is the addition of one of the Northwest’s iconic fish, fresh halibut, which perches atop the cioppino. Pinot Gris is the preferred wine pairing here; it is generally a good choice with seafood, thanks to its lively texture and refreshing flavors of green apple and citrus.

2 tablespoons canola oil

Six 5-ounce halibut fillets

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon fennel seed

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1 small red onion, halved and sliced 1/8 inch thick

1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeds and membranes removed, and sliced 1/8 inch thick

1 Roma tomato, cored, seeded, and diced

1 cup homemade or store-bought fish stock, or 1/2 cup clam broth mixed with 1/2 cup water

1/2 cup Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Pinot Gris or other good-quality Pinot Gris

1 pound Manila clams, shells scrubbed and rinsed

1 pound mussels, shells scrubbed and rinsed and mussels debearded just before cooking

4 ounces cooked octopus, very thinly sliced

4 ounces Alaskan spot prawns or medium-sized shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in half lengthwise

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the canola oil. Arrange the halibut fillets flesh side down without crowding, and cook until the fillets turn a soft golden brown and caramelize, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and cook until medium rare (still a bit translucent in the center), 2 to 4 minutes more, being careful not to overcook. If desired, remove the skin. Cover to keep warm, and set aside.

2. While the fish is cooking, make the cioppino. Heat a Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the fennel seeds and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the onion and red bell pepper and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the tomato, fish stock, and wine, stir well, and cook for 1 minute. Add the clams, cover, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the mussels, cover, and cook for 4 minutes. When most of the clams and mussels have opened, add the octopus and prawns, cover, and cook until the prawns just turn pink and their tails curl slightly, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat and discard any clams or mussels that have not opened. Gently stir in the parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Divide the cioppino among 6 soup or pasta bowls. Arrange one halibut fillet in the center of each bowl and serve at once.