Frank’s visit to Frank’s

More. Everyone wants more of something. I want more streetfood spots in Seattle. Tiger Woods wants more majors. Bruce Dickinson wants more cowbell. The Smithsonian wants more artifacts. I also want more great places to eat in Seattle. Thankfully we are a great food city and there are more restaurants adding to this reputation. In fact, a new one from the folks that have brought us U-District’s great Pair have another place they want to be included into the discussion; Frank’s Oyster House & Champagne Parlor.

I was excited to go to Frank’s for a few reasons. Number one is the name. As a Frank, I always appreciate having more of us around. Number two was how much I like Pair. A whimsical restaurant that executes small plate comfort food perfectly. Number three is because of the stuff I read online. Interesting articles about the history and inspiration behind the place. I always like to know the backstory and the history to any place I visit, so it was great to learn more about Frank’s.

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An evening at Art of the Table

I’ve been a fan of Art of the Table for a long time. It started as conversations with friends and how this tiny little restaurant on a residential corner in Wallingford was churning out high quality food. Next, I was reading some articles online and that it’s the #1 restaurant on Yelp. But it wasn’t until a wine dinner visit to Art of the Table where I was put under a spell to fully appreciate the work of Chef Dustin Ronspies and his crew. That night solidified it; I needed to go back and fully take in the Art of the Table experience. I finally did return and it was one of best dining experiences I’ve had in some time.

It was at a wine tasting with Stephen Tanzer that I was first able to take in Dustin’s talent. There were several small plates to accompany the wine, my personal favorite being his pork confit with pickled rhubarb. After this great night of eating and drinking I vowed to return and I finally did this past weekend. After seeing the email listing out his menu for Valentine’s Day I knew we would go. A dinner at Art of the Table is truly unique and a dinner for Valentine’s Day featuring aphrodisiacs would elevate it to a special occasion.

Chalk this up to the friendly vibe that Dustin, his partner Laurie, his sous chef Phil, and his guest chef (and brother) Derek provided that evening. What other restaurant would the chef and owner greet you at the door and offer to take your coat? These little touches provide great effect to the experience at Art of the Table. It’s a communal vibe where you feel like you’re in Dustin’s dining room with his kitchen right around the corner. You’ll see him cooking, serving, setting plates, and washing dishes; he has a hand in the entire evening. I also love it when Dustin announces each course and talks about his inspiration. He breaks the “wall” between kitchen and customers by conversing with his guests and describing the menu. The personal imprint of Art of the Table is one of the things that really makes it unique and enriches the experience.

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Ramen Lunch at Tsukushinbo

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The options for ramen in Seattle are not that vast. And we’re not talking about the stuff you get at the grocery. This ramen is balanced in it’s salt and savoriness. The noodles have great flavor and is nothing like that prepackaged stuff. This is ramen to really enjoy and seek out. So far there are two really good places that have been talked about often on the internet; Samurai Noodle and Tsukushinbo. I’ve been to both, and I must say I’m leaning towards Tsukushinbo. Their ramen is awesome.

I first learned of Tsukushinbo via Jay Friedman’s post on Seattlest. This got my curiosity going. Then he posted a bit more of an in-depth article on his Gastrolust site. This was the tipping point to make me go. It was a great write-up to describe the noodles and the limited quantities (word off the street they only serve 20 bowls) of Tsukushinbo’s ramen on Fridays. Armed with this we went for lunch on Friday.

Tsukushinbo is located at the intersection of 5th and Main on the North Side of Jackson in the ID. If you’re familiar with Maneki, it’s right around the corner. Tsukushinbo only serves their ramen on Fridays as a lunch special and it’s in demand. They open at 11:45 and we got there about 10 minutes shy of opening to see a line already starting. By the time the door opened, it was about 15 deep. Stepping into the place you’ll notice that it’s very cozy; about eight tables and a sushi bar – the space fits about 35 people. We sidled up to the bar, because it’s always the best place to sit in any restaurant, especially a sushi bar.

About the ramen. It’s decidedly different than the ramen at Samurai Noodle. Samurai’s ramen is tonkatsu in style, so it’s very rich from a long simmering and has a creamy unctuousness that can be very filling. Tsukushinbo’s ramen is shoyu, which was something that just felt better on my palate. It had a delicate lightness that balanced nicely with the salt and savory package (think clear broth). It was so good that I kept wanting to drink it. The other ingredients were nicely done as well. A nice piece of pork, some bamboo shoots, and green onions all played well with the broth and noodles. But the thing that put it over the top for me was the piece of nori that came with it. With this bite I was in ramen heaven. Nori is pure umami, and this blast of flavor created a uniqueness that I really liked.

For $7.50 you get a great bowl of soup. Plus, it also comes with a bowl of rice and three pieces of gyoza. And it’s really good gyoza. Seared perfectly and full of flavor, it’s a great add on with your lunch. But go for the ramen and you won’t be disappointed. Just get there early. And make sure to visit on their other days too. I can’t wait to go back and try their udon, katsu, sushi… So much food, so little time.

Tsukushinbo on Urbanspoon

Photo courtesy of Matthew at Urbanspoon

Seattle 1234567890 Day Celebration

This afternoon marks a landmark occasion for geeks, programmers and nerds everywhere; that’s when Unix time hits ‘1234567890’ at 3:31pm (and 30 seconds if we’re splitting hairs).

Why is this important? Well for programmers it’s important as a unique snapshot in Unix Time where there is that perfect coincidence numerically. Plus it’s an excuse to celebrate. The Seattle institution of the Owl N’ Thistle will be having a party to ring in the occasion. Be there by 3pm to revel in the number fun!

Hit up The Owl for their happy hour from 3-6pm to ring in 1234567890 Day and embrace your inner geek. Or head over if you really love fish ‘n chips. Owl N’ Thistle has some good ones. Most everything on the happy hour menu falls under three bucks. So let the libations and good times flow with the other geeks around town.

808 Post Alley
Seattle, WA 98104
621-7777
Dilbert comic courtesy of Scott Adams

The sexy wines of Spanish reds

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, which for many (mostly marketing and advertising people) is the most romantic day of the year. Chocolate is prominent, roses are abundant, and a special dinner is in the cards for many. But what about wine? Whether you’re ordering out or ordering in, I have a wine for you that exudes sexiness, passion, and surprises. Say hello to the Monastrell grape from Spain.

Specifically, Monastrell wines from the Yecla and Jumilla regions of Spain. Those are the ones that I’m sprung on. Why do I feel this way about them? Well, they have so many things going for them. Spanish wines are super affordable; you can generally get good stuff for under $20. Getting value from your wine is very cool. A big reason is because Spain is the third-largest producer of wine in the world, but they are only now starting to break into the Old World hierarchy of France and Italy – those two countries have wines that are a bit more expensive. This affordability also goes for their Iberian neighbor too; lots of wines from Portugal are also very great.

Another thing to note about Monastrell and Spanish wines in general is that they very fruit-forward with depth and bright acidity to refresh the palate. When you drink one you’ll notice both the fruit and hints of smoke to add to the depth. The tannins are on the finer side, and not chunky or brash. Lastly, and this is my favorite part, they have a bright acidity that is uncommon for many red wines – the acidity keeps your mouth watering for more. Chart this up to the environment of Spain’s vineyards.

The great regions for Monastrell in Spain are Yecla, Bullas, and Jumilla. Since we’re spending time with the Monastrell’s of Jumilla and Yecla let’s focus there. Both regions are located on the southeast corner of Spain. Because of the proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, Spain goes through a bit of a Mediterranean effect where the ocean breezes help cool the wine during the growing season. Couple this with the high heat of the day and the cool nights, the wines have relatively low alcohol levels and high acidity.

What does this mean for you? That you’ll get a bottle of wine that is easy to drink now with potential for aging. And with those flavor characteristics, you’ll get a wine that is quite enjoyable. And how does this equate to a sexy wine? You won’t be ambushed by high alcohol levels and you’ll gently be swayed by the elegance of a wine that will envelop you in it’s graces. Try some, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

As for recommendations? There are two that stand out in my mind as easy drinkers that won’t wallop the wallet.

Bellum from Senioro de Barahonda – Check your local wine retailer if they have this one, because you’ll love it. Long finish with flavors of plum, blackberries, and bits of smoked meat. This is a wine that can take the evening places. Bellum is from Yecla so you’ll notice how great the wines from here can be.

Castillo de Jumilla – Enjoyed this one at dinner the other night, and I’m sure you’ll like it too. It’s a surprising wine in that you get a lot of bang for your buck. The flavors are definitely in the red fruit spectrum, but you’ll notice a bit of earthiness that comes as a back note.

Meal of Steel: Steel cut oats

Oats is one of those foodstuffs that is overlooked and unappreciated that it could be considered underrated. Most know it as being good for you and as a start to the day, but for many it’s not appreciated or revered as much as it should be. I’m part of the smaller group that eat it gleefully. I thoroughly love the stuff. It’s versatile – oatmeal is part of the four pillars of cookie awesomeness, it’s also commonly used as a topping for cobblers. But its best and most simple use is as oatmeal, providing the most latitude for food greatness and creativity.

Sure you’ve probably eaten rolled oats (think Quaker), but if you haven’t dabbled into the world of steel cut oats, I’d highly suggest doing so. It’s not that regular rolled oats are bad, they just don’t quite have the joie de vivre of steel cut oats. Why? Well, rolled oats require a bit more processing than steel cut oats and they don’t have the depth of flavor or texture (crunchy) that steel cut oats are renowned for. In particular, McCann’s is the Quaker of steel cut oats. Steel cut oats are created from the inner portion of the oat kernel – their name comes from the steel discs that cuts these portions into smaller parts. So this minimal overwork creates oatmeal bliss in your bowl.

I always shied away from steel cut oats because of the long prep time compared to rolled oats. But I found this really easy recipe where you combine boiling water and oats the night before – warm it up in the morning and you’re good to go! Don’t sweat that it’ll be left out for so long, you’ll be fine, your heart and your tastebuds will appreciate it over whatever else you’ve been eating in the morning. Steel-cut oats are inherently full of nutritional value and are high in B-Vitamins, calcium, protein and fiber while low in salt and unsaturated fat.

What to do with your steel cut oats when you’re ready to eat? Serious Eats asked that very question and you’ll find all sorts of interesting ideas. The general consensus is some sort of combination of brown sugar, butter, and maple syrup. I also like to add Craisins to the mix. Bump up the fiber and clean yourself out by adding Benefiber and flaxseeds if you like. Basically the choice is yours on what you’d like to add.

If you haven’t already given steel cut oats a try. The texture and flavor rival oatmeal and the health benefits make it that much more worthwhile. Plus they have all sorts of fun names like Irish oats and pinhead oats.

Coming Soon: Eric Ripert’s new show on PBS

Here is another cool announcement for those that appreciate the brilliance of chefs: Eric Ripert will be getting his own show on PBS this fall.

We’ve talked about Eric Ripert before and now that I’ve been able to meet him, it’s great to hear his exploits. His recent appearances on Top Chef were great, but now we’ll be able to see him doing his own thing this fall. Chef Ripert has a very easy-going style and his skills in the kitchen will be great to see when the shows roll around.

And with this announcement, Eric Ripert adds to an already seasoned line-up. I’d say that the PBS’ stable of cooking shows are better than most things that Food Network shoves at us. Currently, PBS broadcasts shows featuring Ming Tsai, Rick Bayless, Lidia Bastianich, Todd English, and soon enough Eric Ripert. And it’s not just chefs, they also have other great shows – like Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Spain: On the Road Again. All of these folks can run circles around most of the people that the Food Network trots out because they’re chefs, they all have their own restaurants and they’re entrepreneurs – they’re masters of their craft. If anything PBS now is what Food Network was six years ago.

It’ll be fun to see what Eric has in store for us. If you haven’t checked out his blog, Avec Eric (which is also what the PBS show will be called), I’d highly suggest doing so. This should be a good teaser for his show.