November 2005 Archives

Last call

Last day in November, last day of the "25 for 25" promotion that got you a three-course dinner for $25 at some of Seattle's snazzier eateries. Better still, about half of them also offered a three-course lunch for $12.50. At Flying Fish, starter choices included smoked salmon, beet salad or clam chowder; main courses offered albacore, salmon or seafood hotpot; dessert options were pumpkin cheesecake, apple upside-down cake or a grappa brownie.

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What's that? You missed the whole thing again? Dude, you gotta get out more.

25 for 25

To Market, To Market

Thanksgiving weekend and the Pike Place Market is bustling. But just off its epicenter, a narrow staircase leads to an oasis, one of Seattle's most romantic little restaurants: Place Pigalle.

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Place Pigalle's steamed mussels, flavored with bacon, celery, shallots and balsamic vinegar, are legendary. The roasted beet salad with walnut-coated goat cheese and arugula is enhanced with a tangy Dijon mustard vinaigrette. Their wine list is extensive and well-organized. The presentation of some dishes, though, can verge on overly fussy: salmon filet, fresh and perfectly cooked, was topped with a sun-dried tomato relish; the sturgeon was garnished with a saffron-flavored chanterelle, and both plates came with a ghastly, bitter slaw of red cabbage and endive. Desserts were downright leaden: a dense pot-de-creme and a chewy dried-apricot tarte.

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Then again, we had a magnificent view of stately ferries plying Elliott Bay, a fine bottle of Pouilly-Fume, and some of the best fish in town. So shut up and quit whining, already.

Curses foiled?

How about the black cloud that supposedly hangs over 1921 First Avenue? Former mortuary, former Cafe Sophie, former Avenue One, former Fire and Ice... probably missed one or two.

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Now it's the Starlite Lounge, remodeled to minimize the funereal aspects of the cavernous space, with a giant mural of Dino, Sammy and Frankie above the bar. The sound system oozes their crooning ballads, the bar serves decent libations, and the kitchen does a respectable job with $5 happy-hour plates like mussels in herbsaint butter sauce and mini prime rib sandwiches.

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Have they beaten the curse? Ya think?

Starlite Lounge, 1921 1st Ave., 206-448-7824

Belltown Buffet

Comings and goings this holiday week:

Too bad Barocho couldn’t hang on until the Seattle Art Museum’s new sculpture park opens next year (it's said). Their vantage point at Broad and Western was perfect. But they’re closed. And such a dog-friendly place, too. Bizarre orthography didn’t help; it looked like the name of the place was ibARoChO!—a disgruntled Japanese ballplayer, perhaps? Gesundheit!

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There's a newcomer at the corner of Fourth and Wall, replacing SID’s. That stood for Seattle’s Italian Deli, except that it wasn’t a deli and wasn’t Italian either. Sid’s was deplorable, yet the apartment building across the street—looking for some local landmark—was named the Sidney. The new place is called Rockin’ Burrito. Maybe they’ll rename the apartments “The Rock.”

Just up the street, El Portal fills the space vacated by 522 Madrid. Owner is Joe Valencia, formerly of El Gaucho; chef is Pedro Aguilar of Veracruz, signature dish is guacamole prepared tableside ($6.75), motto is “Food our mothers would be proud of.”

And yes, it’s no relation to Porta, formerly on Eastlake, now calling itself Porta By the Market.

Down on Westlake, check out Slo Joe’s Bigtime Backyard Barbecue. You may recognize owner Joe Jeannot, a former bartender at Tini Bigs who also used to run several of the most popular hot dog carts in town (including the one at First and Bell, the closest thing Belltown has to an all-night diner).

Sad to see that my favorite liquid-lunch spot, Spice, no longer serves lunch. At least not during the winter. Guess that means no more nooners!

Finally, for this installment of the buffet, there’s a new takeout place at Third and Lenora. At least that’s what the sign says: “Grand Opening – Takeout” But is there a takeout menu? No. Will there be one? Blank stare.

Tale of Two Parties

No matter what you think of the wine itself, the arrival of a new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau makes for a great party.

The 13th annual French-American Chamber of Commerce gala, at the Fairmont Olympic, featured a $125 sit-down dinner (lobster bisque, Kobe beef tenderloin), a fund-raising auction, a spirited combo (accordionist & fiddler), gents in spiffy tuxedos, gals in gorgeous gowns, the Lieutenant Governor, and, of course, the honorary French consul.

Party at Fairmont Olympic.jpg Oyster girl 2.jpg

FACC pres Bill King.jpg Woman in stunning green dress.jpg Lt Gov Brad Owen w Jack Cowan.jpg

More pictures online from TeamPhotogenic.

A mile away in Belltown, at Le P'tit Bistro, the prix-fixe dinner was $29 (assiette de charcuterie, boeuf bourguignon), Jean-Michel Omnes played French songs on his accordion, and francophiles from the neighborhood happily quaffed copious amounts of Beaujolais Nouveau without paying all that much attention to its quality. The best of times, n'est-ce pas?

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Jean-Michel Omnes.jpg Three francophiles from Tacoma.jpg

Brave New Beaujolais

Mon dieu! One of the few certainties in life used to come on the third Thursday of November, when wine bars around the world would announce that Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive, and pour glasses of fresh, fruity, generally undistinguished red wine. Not this year.

Suddenly convinced they have to change their image, Beaujolais producers seem to have launched their own version of New Coke.

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Arguing that they had to address a younger audience in a language other than French, they're calling this year's release "It's Beaujolais Nouveau Time". Supporting the promotion is a disastrously cheesy franglais website, www.beaujolaisnouveautime.com replete with unforgiveable misspellings ("Wenesday") and undecipherable mistranslations ("because it's an appointment").

Franck Duboeuf, whose family company markets a quarter of all the Beaujolais Nouveau sold in the US, starred in a comically misconceived promotion, a New York appearance with those exemplars of modern fashion and wine marketing: French can-can dancers.

Worse, though, is that this year's wine is unlike any Beaujolais in recent memory. It's not bad; far from it. But it has no banana esters, no cardamon or nutmeg aromas, not even any of the bright cherry flavors characteristic of Beaujolais. What happened?

Dubeouf's secret used to be that he would let hundreds of individual growers ferment their own harvest but insist that they use his strain of yeast. (The yeast, in the carbonic maceration process used to ferment Beaujolais Nouveau, determines the flavor profile.) Did that change this year?

No one's talking, but the company's new marketing slogan is "Just Du It."

Pink drinks by Dominic

Drinkmeister Dominic comes up with two new cocktails. Which one would you rather snuggle up with?

The Paris Hilton: Absolut Apeach, dash Triple Sec, dash peach schnapps. Shake with muddled lemons & dash of cranberry for color. Serve in chilled glass, no sugar.

The Snagglepuss: Stoli Citron, watermelon liqueur and, again for color, that dash of cranberry.

Both creations are pink, soft, warm, cuddly cultural icons, right? Do they have more in common than a fondness for ... vodka?

Good deed, good taste

| 3 Comments

New Orleans chef Susan Spicer (Bayona, Herbsaint, Cobalt) is teaming up with my friends Staci Strauss and Craig McCord from FoodGoods on a worthwhile fund-raiser. Buy this black & green t-shirt ($35); the proceeds go directly to the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund set up through the hospitality industry's Share our Strength organization.

11/14/05 UPDATE: Bayona is Spicer's own restaurant. See reader comments for her association with the other spots.

As for the "Where's Emeril?" flap alluded to by reader Frolic in the comments, it's about this article in the Times-Picayune.

May the Spice be with you.gif

Great idea, guys. Read the completepress release or continue below for additional information.

Iron Chef Tom

Celebrity chef Tom Douglas runs Seattle's best-known culinary empire (Dahlia Lounge, Etta's, Palace Kitchen, Lola's), but can he handle the national spotlight? Indeed he can; Douglas bested Masahara Marimoto in this week's episode of Iron Chef America. His secret weapon: smoked salmon with a poached egg.

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It came down to taste. One judge complained that her salmon was "too firm" and Tom looked devastated. But a second judge loved it and awarded him enough points for a convincing win. Bravo!

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Just in time, too! Look what's on the cover of Sunday's Pacific Northwest:

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Jazz at BaiPai

Seattle needs more piano bars, more lounges where a talented musician plays jazz standards. Oh, sure, there's the venerable Mirabeau Room, with a distinguished older gent, the iconic Howard Bulson, at the keyboard on Mondays. But what about something besides Happy Hour sing-along, a place with terrific food, a pianist with real style?

Try BaiPai, a new Thai restaurant in Ravenna, where our good friend Ludmilla is now playing on Friday and Saturday nights.

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Owners are veteran chef Jack Kanand and Alex Silagin, a Russian seafood broker. Jack's menu offers traditional Thai dishes (BaiPai means "bamboo leaf" in Thai) with a wide selection of curries. Among the appetizers, the garlic string beans ($6) and banana shrimp cake ($8) have been a big hit. Also enjoyed the pork larb, served in crunchy lettuce cups.

Jack Kananad at BaiPai.jpg Alex Selagin at BaiPai1.jpg Banana shrimp at BaiPai1.jpg

BaiPai, 2316 NE 65th, Seattle, 206-527-4800

Back to School

Luncheon with the Alliance Fran├žaise at a favorite spot, the Art Institute of Seattle's Portfolio Dining Room.

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This being "French Week," Chef David Wynne and his brigade of trainees prepared a menu that appealed to francophiles: moules mariniere, crepe au ratatouille and a dish I've always loved, plats de cote: beef short ribs braised in a rich wine sauce with chanterelles.

This quarter, the room is open for both lunch (11:30 to 1) and dinner (6 to 7:30) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Those delectable short ribs are on the menu for an unbelievable $8.75, by the way. And Maitre d'Hotel Dieter Schafer will pour you excellent wines, too, for risible prices ($14 for a bottle of Erath Vineyards pinot noir).

Dieter also runs a series of Wednesday afternoon wine classes at the school; one upcoming class is titled "Italian Grapes--Washington Soil" ($12 per session). On Tuesday nights, he offers a series of more extensive tastings, matched with food, called smartFUN Viticulture ($65).

Portfolio Restaurant, 2600 Alaskan Way, Seattle, 206-239-2363

Original Sideways

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Key scene of movie Sideways filmed here, at Hitching Post in Buellton. Sit at the bar, just like Miles and Jack, sip excellent Highliner pinot noir from proprietor's own vineyard ($14 a glass) and wolf down flavorful flat-iron steak ($24 on the "lite" dinner).

Behind me, tourists pose for souvenir photos in front of autographed movie poster. Servers not as sultry as Virginia Madsen, though, not even after second glass. Sigh.

Sideways pinot at Hitching Post.jpg Sideways bottle w flat-iron steak1.jpg Sideways fans and poster-1.jpg

Hitching Post, 406 E Highway 246, Buellton, Calif., 805-688-0676

One last gelato

Rimini and Riccione, on the Adriatic Riviera, have 1,000 hotels, 227 beachfront lidos, 4 theme parts and 30 discos. It's Europe's most popular seaside resort. There's even a webcam or two.

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The weather has turned cool and the beaches are devoid of tourists, but the locals still hang out at the gelateria. How could I leave without a two-scoop, 3-euro cone of caffe e nocciole?

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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