Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.
December 6, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The couple behind the most Italian lunch in Seattle is adding on a new Pioneer Square restaurant with a new specialty. Mike Easton, chef-owner of Il Corvo Pasta, and wife and business partner Victoria, are planning a Roman-style street pizza place to be called Pizzeria Gabbiano. They plan to open the restaurant at 2nd and Main in late spring, working with an 150-year-old starter and daily batches of hand-pulled mozzarella.
Describing the pizzas he’d like to create, Easton wrote about “the depth of flavor, the chew, and the overall satisfaction” that diners might find at Rome’s Campo De Fiore. He described a dough that wasn’t just about simplicity and quality of ingredients, but also about the time it takes to allow natural fermentation over a period of days, to develop flavors from wild yeasts, to allow starches to break down to sugars, to mix and knead by hand. After all that, he wrote, “now caramelize those sugars in a 650 degree oven, letting the bright acidity of the tomato embrace the milky richness of the hand made mozzarella, and you have in many peoples’ opinion, some of the best pizza in the world…And a pizza we will be striving to emulate at Pizzeria Gabbiano.”
The setup sounds like a pizza version of the astoundingly good, reasonably priced, and creative cuisine coming out of Il Corvo each day. That busy business is one of the places I name when people ask where to eat with just one day in Seattle, and it’s triumphed over far pricier and fancier joints on recent awards lists.
Still, adding a second restaurant seemed like a big move for a chef who once scaled down to a cash-only, lunch-only operation (the original Il Corvo on the Pike Place Market hill climb) to have more time with his wife and daughter. Even when moving to Pioneer Square last year, he made it clear he wanted to stay away from big bank loans and endless hours and other potential traps of expansion.
Turns out he’s still keeping it small, in that respect. (more…)
December 5, 2013 at 11:42 PM
With just 27 seats and chalkboard menu listing fewer than a dozen items, Blind Pig Bistro appears to be the sort of neighborhood place that wouldn’t take reservations, much less offer a tasting menu.
But the two-year-old Eastlake eatery announced this week they now accept reservations, plus they’ve made their popular whole-menu tasting option more attractive: the 8 to10-plate shareable feast is priced at $35-$45 per person.
The news got me wondering anew why some restaurants take reservations, while others—to the annoyance of many diners, me included—don’t.
Walpole says he’s thinking of his customers. “The idea at this point is, how can we be better, how can we grow. Taking reservations is one way we can improve service. It’s asking a lot to ask people to come in and not have a table waiting.”
He’s also thinking long term. In 2014 he plans to transform the adjacent Eastlake Teryiyaki into a 35-seat bar and lounge. The two storefronts will be connected but have separate names and menus.
The reason many small restaurants don’t take reservations, says Walpole, is largely a staffing issue. “It requires managing the tables, calling and confirming the reservations. We have a bigger staff and a stronger team. We feel we can do it now and do it right.” (more…)
December 4, 2013 at 10:28 AM
Zagat has ranked its 20 top-rated restaurants across the country, and #1 in the Seattle area is Nishino in Madison Park. It won a rating of 29 (out of 30) for food, 27 for service, and 23 for decor.
Last year, counting only food ratings, Cafe Juanita took the top spot, followed by Paseo, Mashiko, Spinasse and The Herbfarm. Nishino was #9 on that list, scoring 27 for food.
The Zagat-esian writeup puts it this way: “Kyoto-born Nobu alum Tatsu Nishino conceives “delicate, inventive” and altogether “amazing” sushi for deep-pocketed fin fans at his “low-key” Madison Park Japanese; “expert” service and “masterpieces on the walls” by local artist Fay Jones put diners “in a Zen state”, but those who want a truly transporting experience know “it’s all about” the “straight-from-heaven” omakase menu (just be sure to “order a few days ahead”).
December 4, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Who needs a drink?
Surprise of surprises, I’m raising my hand. And I found a good excuse. Thursday is Repeal Day, marking 80 years of legal drinking. Cocktail geeks and dudes with ironic mustaches may not know much about history, but they all seem to know that Dec. 5, 1933 was when the US repealed the 18th Amendment, re-allowing the consumption of alcohol.
With the cocktail renaissance, many bars now celebrate Repeal Day by throwing parties and getting patrons to dress up in 1930s garb. Though Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler has been the driving force behind the Repeal Day celebration — which has caught on nationwide — in Seattle, dozens of bars will extend happy hour, offer discount drinks and concoct other specials to mark the occasion. Below are some events:
December 3, 2013 at 10:22 PM
Long before the era of celebrity chefs and Northwest cuisine and “local-seasonal” cooking, there was Jimella Lucas.
With partner Nanci Sofia Main, Lucas pioneered culinary magic on the Long Beach peninsula, with dishes like fresh-caught salmon sauced with peaches at their peak, or classic oyster stews and chowders cooked with seafood harvested within view of the dining room.
Long before chefs felt a James Beard Award was their profession’s highest honor, Beard himself dined at the restaurant at The Shelburne Inn, which Lucas and Main once ran, and at the Ark restaurant, which they owned for 25 years, bringing national attention to the pair’s cooking and connections to their food. Never in his 80 years of life, Beard wrote in the introduction to the first Ark cookbook, had he seen a restaurant “that glorified the great gifts from the sea, nor the fine vegetables, or the wild mushrooms, or the small fruits or the game” in the way that Lucas and Main did.
Lucas, 69, died of cancer Nov. 30 at her home in Oysterville.
November 29, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Cake Envy in Green Lake is closing its doors. The stylish, white-on-buttercream-white shop will sell its final cupcakes, cakes, and delectable cream puffs on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 (it’s closed Friday, Nov. 29.)
We don’t have any shortage of cupcake shops (or even any shortage of chains of cupcake shops) in Seattle, but I was sad to see this little independent venture go. Owner Helen Noh makes gorgeous special-occasion cakes that taste as good as they look. Her enchanting daily selection of cupcakes includes Cake Envy’s vanilla, with its Italian meringue buttercream, which was named the city’s best vanilla cupcake and best vanilla frosting in a blind taste teste I led last year. Judges appreciated the cupcake’s homemade taste and premium quality ingredients.
Noh told me in an email that she’s closing mainly because of the juggling act that came with the birth of her son this year.
“As a single mom, it’s been hard to keep up with the hours, the stress, and the day to day tasks that were somewhat easier before becoming a parent. For the longest time career was the most important thing in my life and I never thought anything else would come before that but I was wrong,” she said. “Sebastian came to this world and changed my outlook on priorities and life. Having him also changed my ability to think straight, speak clearly, and keep focused all because of the lack of sleep!”
But the secondary reason is worth stopping to consider. Noh, whose resume includes culinary school at the Art Institute of Seattle and research and development at Starbucks, said she also made the decision because of the daily stresses of owning a business — the negativity of online reviews being a big one.
“I opened Cake Envy because I have a passion for cakes and baking and wanted to share that with customers. But there is so much negativity out there with yelp reviews and ratings that it makes me never want to follow my passion ever again. Most of the negativity comes from ignorance. If the person writing a terrible review knew and fully understood what a business owner goes through each day, and what it took to make their dream come true, they wouldn’t utter one word. I would love to have them in my shoes for one day. I guarantee that they would think twice before typing away negative comments.”
Looking at the Yelp page for the business, its 4 out of 5 stars looked pretty positive to me. I would have focused on the many raves instead of the few harshly worded pans. But Noh is far from alone in seeing anonymous online hostility directed her way.
I want people to be honest in their reviews. But it’s possible to be fair and truthful about a bad experience without aiming for snark and cruelty. There are real people — real bakers, real parents, real entrepreneurs — on the other end. Lucky Sebastian will be getting some of the best birthday cakes in the city in coming years, and I hope Noh comes back to a broader audience too.
November 27, 2013 at 12:33 PM
For the last three Christmases, if you were as crazy as me, you waited in line in front of Sun Liquor, a line that stretched three-blocks before this Capitol Hill bar even opened. All for a cup of Sun Liquor’s famous aged eggnog. (more…)
November 26, 2013 at 3:42 PM
Seattle entrepreneur Dave Meinert named The Five Point Cafe a Google Glass free zone before the devices were even available. But a Glass-wearing customer was asking for an explanation — and, potentially, to have an employee fired — when he was told earlier this week he couldn’t use the wearable computer in one of Meinert’s newer businesses, the 24-hour Lost Lake Cafe and Lounge.
Google Glass user Nick Starr wrote on his Facebook page that he had worn the device at the restaurant a number of times and “even had staff ask me about it and to check it out.” This time, though, he said he was asked to put it away or leave.
November 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Finally, Dinette will be hitting the big-time — at least in size. Chef-owner Melissa Nyffeler plans to close the restaurant’s doors at 1514 E. Olive Way after dinner service on Dec. 23, and to move the restaurant to a yet-to-be-determined larger space.
Dinette has been loved in its 8 years on Capitol Hill, but always seemed under-appreciated, only rarely getting national attention along the lines of this August article in the Boston Globe. (Looking around for recent Dinette mentions, in fact, the most prominent is on a list of the nation’s most underrated restaurants. Hmmm.) From “toasts” to tagines, salads to snacks, it’s been called “ridiculously charming” but with fully thought-out food, and “comfortably at home between homey and haute.” Nyffeler and her crew accomplished all those things working on nothing but a four-burner electric range and a toaster.
Nyffeler expects to re-open Dinette in 2014, looking for a place with a similar ambience, but more space inside the kitchen and out. She’s looking around Capitol Hill, but open to real estate in other walkable neighborhoods.
There will be three more of Nyffeler’s family-style Sunday suppers at the old address – Dec. 8 (Yucatan), Dec. 15 (Southern French, featuring cassoulet) and Dec. 22 (Spanish tapas.) Those dinners, which were inspired by the ones Nyffeler used to throw in her own apartment, are limited to 36 guests apiece, with reservations required. Cost: $40 per person, not including cocktails, wine, beer or dessert. Also, on the final dinner in the old space Dec. 23, look for Champagne and “toasts of both the wine and bread varieties.” Keep track of them in the interim on their Facebook page over here.
November 21, 2013 at 4:12 PM
Dinner under a tent in Seattle in November? Call it foolhardy, even crazy, but also call it sold out—at $200 per person no less. Four hours after Lara Hamilton sent an email in mid-October to her Book Larder mailing list announcing the November 18th event, not a ticket was left. The draw was a chef trifecta. James Beard Award-winner Matt Dillon was cooking with Blaine Wetzel of Willow’s Inn, dubbed “one of ten restaurants in the world worth a plane ride” by the NY Times.
The guest of honor was Copenhagen chef Rene Redzepi of Noma, which held the number one spot on the list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” three years running beginning in 2010. That’s the year “we went from zeros to heros,” said Redzepi in Seattle, one stop on his U.S. tour promoting his latest book, A Work in Progress. (If you missed him last night making chocolate-covered chicharones with Jimmy Kimmel and actor Idris Elba, watch it here. It’s hilarious!) Addressing the 160 people who braved Seattle’s rain and chill on Monday night an impressed Redzepi said, “This would never happen in Denmark.”
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