Thursday, December 8, 2011

Going out with a whole lot of class

For Sean's last stop in town, we headed to Seattle's oldest fine dining restaurant, Canlis (which is amazingly still in the Canlis family after 60+ years). Built on top of a hillside overlooking Lake Union, Canlis is known for its amazing service and atmosphere. If you aren't pleased by the service here, you are impossible to please (or maybe you don't like following a dress code). Andy and I had actually eaten here once before but not since they got a new chef who shook up the establishment and started serving some more modern dishes. Although we enjoyed a lot the last time around, I would definitely say the food was more memorable and delicious than last time.

As guests of Sean (aka Mr. Big Shot), we were served a fixed menu. For a couple of the course, they brought two of us one dish and the other two a different one, so we got to try extra dishes.

Here's the roundup:
Sweet potato two ways: soup with cranberry and cinnamon and sweet potato chip topped with shrimp and cranberry
Risotto with a duck egg and white truffles (OMG-YUM!)
Young Beets with Sheep's milk yogurt sherbet, pumpernickel, and blueberries
Smoked Sockeye Salmon with Yogurt, sorrel and lobster coral / Hamachi two ways: sashimi and tartare (these were two of the top dishes---the smoked salmon melted in your mouth, and well so did the hamachi....Mmmmm)
Foie Gras with a rabbit rillette served with warm brioche (fancy pants, rich but delicious)
Chicken: Prosciutto, salt-baked celery root, and matsutake mushrooms (Andy's favorite dish of the meal--this was not your average chicken dish)
New York Strip Steak - 28-day dry-aged with carrots, curry, and cauliflower / strip steak with black truffles and deliciousness (loved this---some of the best beef I've had)
Pineapple with White chocolate, passion fruit, and coconut
Crème Fraîche Custard with Oatmeal streusel, Granny Smith apple sorbet / Mille-Feuille (Banana caramel, peanut butter, and dark chocolate cake) (I skipped the peanut butter dish---luckily this was another split course---the custard was amazing and the apple sorbet had so much flavor)
peanut butter truffle / rosewater raspberry macaroons

As with the other two restaurants we visited, the head chef at Canlis, Peter Franey, seemed really nice and genuine (though less West Coast relaxed than the other two). I asked Sean and the photographer if all chefs are nice, and they both very quickly and unequivocally said NO! Maybe it's a Seattle thing!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rustic and Homey

For our second stop on the Seattle Food Tour, we headed to Sitka & Spruce in Capital Hill's Melrose Building. I had never been to the Melrose Building and was excited to find a cheese shop, a butcher, a bar, and more located in the same space as Sitka & Spruce. The atmosphere is open and fun and really chill. I was worried that after eating at the Willow's Inn, I would be disappointed by all other meals (for the rest of my life??), and while the meal we had Sitka & Spruce does not live up to the amazing 21-course dinner at the Willow's Inn, it was lovely in a totally different way. The food is rustic and served family style, but is still creative and fun.

Most of the food comes from the chef's farm on Vashon Island, and the menu is constantly changing. I definitely want to go back and would like to try his other spot, the Corson Building.

Here's what we ate:
Bread with butter and duck pate-ish
Alsace style sausage
Sauteed leeks with egg and mustard (this was super delicious)
smoked manila clams with roasted beets
Salmon with some sides...can't remember b/c the rabbit was so good...
Rabbit with chard and potatoes (loved loved flavorful and amazing)
Hot chocolate and cookies (Mexican wedding, almond, buckwheat with cocoa nibs, chocolate chip, ginger) (super fun, and I loved the almond cookies which happily did not have any almond extract in them)
persimmon bread with goat cheese sorbet (Sean was a big fan of this...I was too full of cookies to enjoy it)

After dinner, we spent some time talking to the super nice chef (how did I get here??), Matt Dillon (not that Matt Dillon!) and found out that he is a big Haruki Murakami fan (he was reading 1Q84). He even has a Murakami tattoo, but I didn't get to see it!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

But wait there's more...

I am positive I can't do this dinner justice in a blog post, but I have to try. Okay, before I start though, if you have the means, stop reading this post and go book a room (the only way to get dinner, except under unusual circumstances) at the Willow's Inn. You will not regret it. You can read this post after you book a room.

The Willow's Inn is not in's on the most accessible San Juan Island-Lummi Island, which is about 1 1/2 to 2 hours from Seattle including a very short ferry ride. For us, getting there added to the fun and excitement of the meal, especially the ferry ride, which was on a boat that held about 20 cars. We were right in the front, so I felt more like a captain than a driver. We arrived in the dark so I can't tell you what the view was like, but I have it on good authority that it is lovely. The Inn itself is cozy and had a nice fire going. We enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails while we waited for dinner to begin.

Here are the courses that were served to us during this amazing meal. Keep in mind that the menu we got only listed 5 courses (in bold below), so all of the other courses (yeah, all 16 other courses we surprises!!).

Smoked salmon served in a still smoking wood box
Salmon roe "crepe"
Black cod with homemade sauerkraut served on a potato chip
pickled oyster (served in a bowl of frozen rocks)
kale chip with black truffle and pumpernickel crumbs (this was fantastic)
veggies with hazelnut "dirt" and herb dip (the presentation on this was lovely---served in a basket)
light cracker with edible flowers (and other greens)
celery root with horseradish mousse (delicious)
grilled oyster (the best oyster I have ever had)
organic grains with pickled mushrooms
herring roe with kelp (traditional Native American delicacy)
fresh king crab with bread crumbs, kale, and a mussel foam
bread with amazing grass fed butter (seriously folks, grass fed butter tastes much better than regular was my downfall b/c I kept eating it and was so incredibly full by the end of the night)
pickled smelt
cabbages with apples
herb chicken jus for the bread (this was a little like crack)
slow roasted beef cheeks with cauliflower and celery
aged goat cheese with pumpernickel toast
pears with walnut ice cream, toasted walnuts, sugared lemon verbena leaves (if I saw this on a menu, I would never order it...but it was amazing...the walnut ice cream was so delicious)
roasted chestnuts with hot apple cider (spiked)
flax seed caramel

Another fun twist---in addition to wine pairings, they also offer juice pairings. As the DD, I was all about this and was very happy with my decision (Andy and our friend Heather did the same, while Sean wine'd it up). With our five scheduled courses, we got cucumber, carrot, granny smith apple, huckleberry, and elderflower juices, and they were all delicious. I am not sure if this comes across as a good idea, but it was really fun and definitely added to the meal.

During the dinner service, the whole team (waitstaff and chefs, including the amazing head chef Blaine Wetzel) serves the food. Although it is clear that Blaine is the head chef, they really do work as a team and the atmosphere in the dining room reflected that.

In an amusing turn of events, after a long, lovely, leisurely dinner, we ran out of the restaurant as if yakkity saks was playing. The ferries only run once an hour, and once we realized we were getting close to the 10 pm ferry, we started getting antsy. We paid our check and literally ran out of the dining room. I may have driven faster than the posted speed limit. And in the end, we got on the ferry with almost 10 minutes to spare!

I am sure I could go on and on, but I think that's enough for now.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Culinary Craziness

Whew---what a week! After indulging in a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with friends, I picked up our friend Sean who flew in from hipster mecca Williamsburg (Brooklyn) for some serious eating. Because he works for the book-ish Art Culinaire magazine, part of his job is visiting restaurants around the country and doing profiles of them. With only a little arm twisting, we got him out to Seattle to see what the PNW has to offer. It was great to catch up and hang out...and I am not complaining about the fantastic food we ate either! He (and his boss) selected three amazing yet very different restaurants: the Willow's Inn, Sitka & Spruce, and Canlis. My plan is to do a blog post on each, so I am going to focus this post on the restaurants we took Sean to prior to his official business.

After flying in Friday morning, we headed to the Junction to walk around our hood. Sean picked up a mini cupcake from Cupcake Royale and then we grabbed turkey and havarti sandwiches and chocolate croissants from Bakery Nouveau. Next, we walked around Capital Hill stopping at Elliott Bay Books, stopping for a quick taco snack at Marination Station. For dinner, we headed to our new favorite pizza place Bar del Corso. We had a pizza with chantrelles, speck, and caramelized onions that was out of this world. Oh yeah, and their fried risotto balls are heavenly (or maybe evil good).

Saturday started at Top Pot doughnuts, followed (not immediately!) by our first time at Uneeda Burger. After taking Ramona for a walk in Fauntleroy Park (in a desperate attempt to burn enough calories to be hungry again), we headed to Mashiko for some sustainable sushi (and my first geoduck---which I think makes me an official PNW-er!).

Up next---the best meal I've ever had...