Getting to Know Seattle: Small Gems

Seattle is a great food city, and a lot of our real gems are small neighborhood places that have been here a long time but continue to innovate and offer great food.

Black Bottle is in my old neighborhood of Belltown. On offer are small plates, which means that two people can order three or four things to share and be very satisfied. I love the small plate idea, rather than ordering “dinner”. Add a great wine list and a few fancy cocktails, and you’re all set.

Some of the small plates at Black Bottle are always on the menu, like grilled flank steak and charred broccoli. I like the taste of the broccoli but the serving is HUGE, way more broccoli than even two people might want to eat. Then the place innovates with occasional items, something like grilled halloumi cheese — a Middle Eastern specialty — with dates and sauteed veggies. Honestly, the dish was the best thing I’ve ever had there.

We rounded out with the flank steak and a light salad plus a glass of good Malbec for me, and it was the perfect after-movie late evening meal.

If you come to Seattle, don’t go only to the “name” places. Suss out these little neighborhood eateries, and enjoy. Worth the effort. 🙂

What Do You Look for When Eating Out?

Friend and regular reader Phyllis sent me this piece from the New York Times, and it made me smile. Nice to know I’m pretty similar to other 50+ year olds when it comes to eating out.

Seattle is a fabulous foodie town. We have lots of good restaurants in all price brackets, and new ones open all the time. People here have lots of disposable income, and we have the economic base to support a wide variety of cuisines and settings. Finding out about good places to eat isn’t hard. You hear about a new restaurant because someone you know has gone there, or because you walk by and check out the menu, or because Yelp or OpenTable sends a list of places you should visit, or because it’s restaurant week and they all advertise their specials online.

That said, you probably think I go to new restaurants all the time. 🙂

Nope.   Like many older diners, I value places that are quiet so I can enjoy conversation along with my food, where a good glass of red wine isn’t secondary to a long menu of fussy drinks whose ingredients are mostly a mystery and whose prices are through the roof, and where I can find something I know I’ll like. I don’t so much want to try “new” as I want to find something I know I’ll enjoy. Like most people my age, my metabolism has slowed — even with all the exercise I do. If I’m going to eat and drink less, I want to be very sure that everything I put in my mouth is going to be spectacular. I hate to admit this, but not only do I frequent a lot of the same places, I know pretty much — unless that night’s special really catches my eye — what I’m going to eat. That’s absolutely true of the three breakfast places where I’m a regular. The server meets me at the table with a hot cup of coffee as I enter and sit down, but no menu. There is no need.

I really do enjoy going out to eat. But, like favorite pieces of music or favorite clothing styles or favorite resort destinations, I have my favorite eateries. As opinion writer Frank Bruni says in his piece, “It’s not just sex and sleep that change as you age. It’s supper.”

Who knew?

Panama 2019 Day 22: Gloria’s Langosta

The lobster tails here are small, coming from spiny lobsters that don’t grow to the size of Maine lobsters, for example. But they are delicious, especially when Gloria cooks them. We’re winding down on her cooking, and soon I’ll be back to my own much simpler fare. But Gloria’s langostas, with salad and yucca frita,  made a wonderful lunch. As with all fresh seafood here, the lobster tails came out of the ocean the same day we ate them. Add garlic, butter, and fresh parsley….beats my Met Market rotisserie chicken every time.

Getting to Know Seattle: “Imperfect Produce”

There’s a company in Seattle that gathers up imperfect produce, food that is safe and nourishing and fresh but which falls outside the standards that most grocery stores will sell. The fruits or vegetables might be too large or too small, too misshapen, off color — things like that. Take a look at a row of tomatoes next time you go to the grocery store, and notice how uniform they are. Anything that falls outside of that uniform standard either gets donated, discarded — or winds up with Imperfect Produce and sold at a discount to adventuresome cooks.

Sara did this for awhile, and liked it, but stopped because of her travel schedule and the need to cancel her weekly box too often. My friend Nicki does it now. I don’t, because in a weekly box I’m apt to get things I don’t know how to cook and don’t really eat — things like chard or kale. I think you can control somewhat the contents of the box, but not entirely. I feel as if I’d waste a lot of things while pondering what to do with them. But I like the concept.

I was at Nicki and John’s for dinner on Saturday night, and Nicki showed me this giant sweet potato. You see what I mean by “larger than usual.” 🙂

Comfort Food

I think of ratatouille as a summer dish, when vegetables like tomatoes and eggplant and peppers are at their best. But our Met Market still has pretty good heirloom tomatoes, the eggplant looked wonderful, and everything else — onions, mushrooms, yellow and orange peppers, zucchini — looked good enough. Oh, and I add a sliced sweet potato to the mix, to make it a winter recipe. I usually have cooked ratatouille on top of the stove, but this fall came upon a preparation that relies on baking. The layers of vegetables are intermixed with grated parmesan cheese, and the dish comes out bubbly, delicious, filling, nourishing, and reasonable in terms of calories.

Can add good bread, a glass of chilled white, and it’s practically gourmet.

Christmas Day Dinner: Raclette

On Christmas day, after a hearty breakfast at Matt and Amy’s, I came home for a bit of a respite and to get some exercise. Mid-afternoon, we all went to Sara and Ben’s for more presents and a dinner of Raclette.

This festive shared meal is hard to describe unless you’ve experience it, but all the elements are below. In the center of the table are two long narrow griddles. Vegetables can be grilled on top. The cheese and raw meats are cooked below. Each participants has his or her own little black tray, like the one you see with the cheese piping hot and melted. You scrape the melted cheese onto your plate with your own small wooden spatula. You can have just the cheese, poured over small boiled potatoes and garnished with pearl onions or chopped leeks, pickles, paprika. Or, you can grill raw chicken or beef, and then add the cheese. Or, you can pour the cheese over the cured meats. Each diner gets to have the Raclette cheese as the center of the meal, but customized the way he or she wants.

There is Swiss Raclette and French Raclette. Ben swears by Swiss Raclette, as he says it melts better.

This is quite a feast, and a very fun way to enjoy a shared meal. 🙂

Cured meats

Raclette cheese

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday in my book — all about traditional foods we enjoy with people we love, and no getting caught up in gift giving or holiday parties or other complications. My personal faves are dark meat turkey, real cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes with a bit of gravy. Crescent rolls of course. A good white wine.

I’ll be here in Seattle with Klainer West. Matt and Amy host, and around the table are family and friends, especially those without family here in Seattle. With a warm welcome, everyone at the table is family-for-the-day.

I hope your Thanksgiving is joyful too, and filled with blessings.