Category Archives: Wine

How to Eat Your Way Through Seattle: Part 1

Every time I want to go somewhere I add the destination to my Airfarewatchdog feed and wait until the next deal pops up.  As this past weekend lasted a full three days, I knew I wanted to take a trip somewhere and Portland was near the top of my list, mostly because I spend way too much time on this site.  The sheer number of amazing breweries and other beer related experiences is ridiculously awesome.  The problem was tickets for President’s Day weekend were $300+ and there is no way this bargain traveler could justify that, even for beer.  Instead I noticed a ridiculously amazing deal for tickets to Seattle for $110 round trip and I began dreaming of coffee, rain and flying fish.

Roem’s been busy recording his album which means I see his inert form before I go to work and hear his key in the door at some insane time in the wee hours of the morning.  My dreams of a romantic weekend away were dashed after

The Vintage Park Hotel is a great place to stay despite the fact they stock leopard print robes and name each room after a Washington Vineyard.

looking at his production schedule before SXSW, so I shelved my plans after some minimal pouting.  But I just couldn’t let it go completely and I continued to check the flight schedule, incredulous that the tickets remained insanely cheap.  Finally about two weeks ago, I convinced my sister to join me on a girls’ weekend away after a few homebrews.  We also persuaded BFF Courtney to come along and booked our ticket along with a 4 star hotel on Priceline we scored with an $85 bid.

Friday night we got into Seattle around 11:30 pm and easily made our way to the hotel via the Link which cost us about $2 each.  Seattle has us at hello with its clean, reliable and cheap mass transit.  We ended up taking the bus and monorail all weekend and I have nothing but positive reviews for the system.  Cabs are pretty cheap so if it’s freezing and/or raining it’s definitely a worthwhile splurge but we were able to cover diverse areas of the city on the bus for around $10 for three days.  We were also lucky enough to have beautiful weather and comfortable shoes, so getting around was easy on the budget.

Saturday morning we started our day off with a recommendation from the doormen at the hotel.  I rarely trust concierage advice on the must see destinations in any city because I prefer off the beaten path attractions and they are usually catering to a different clientele.  The guys chatting us up in the lobby were young and opioniated with definite ideas on what we should see our first hours in Seattle.  They shot down our plan to visit a local coffee chain and directed us instead to Stumpstown Coffee in Capitol Hill and advised us to then head over to Cafe Presse next door for breakfast.

As seasoned urban walkers, we took on the challenge of a 30 minute walk with bravado.  By the time we reached Stumpstown we were freezing and in need of major caffeine.  The coffee there is ridiculously good.  April and I opted for the individual, Chemex brewed, single origin coffee, while Courtney ordered an iced latte.   I tried the Burundi brew sourced from West Africa and it was a medium bodied roast with a rich mouthfeel and lots of body.  Courtney claimed her latte was the best she had ever had and as a former barista, the woman knows her coffee.  Stumpstown Coffee also has locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn so those may on my next travel itinerary.

After we were foritfied with caffeine, we headed to Cafe Presse for some much needed sustenance.  Committed to

Eating our meal took precedent over taking pictures, but you get the idea.

sampling as much food as possible during our short trip, we opted to split most meals three ways.  This was logistically challenging at times but guaranteed we were able to try an outrageous variety of food without being completely glutonous.  For breakfast we ordered two eggs broiled with ham and gruyere, a croque monsieur and pain au chocolate.  The broiled eggs were perfectly cooked and delicious in their simplicity.  The croque monsieur had lovely caramelized bits on the broiled, creamy bechamel sauce while still maintaining the  integrity of the bread and was the perfect foil for the salty ham with the sharp, creamy cheese.  The pain au chocolate was high quality, bittersweet chocolate on a crunchy baguette that was pure heaven with the medium bodied drip coffee from Caffe Vita.

After breakfast, we headed back to the hotel to meet up with our friend Emily, a recent transplant to Tacoma from the Bay Area.  She took us through the Pike Market and we snapped the obligatory pictures of the sights.  I’m not going to say the market is overrated, but I probably wouldn’t tour it again on a Saturday.  After the market, Courtney used her librarian skills to take us on a tour of the Public Library and it was a perfect diversion from the nonstop eating with an amazing view on the 10th floor.

When Rick (my brother in law) suggested we head to Serious Pie for lunch, we decided to dive right in.  If you go anywhere in Seattle, please make it Serious Pie and order the Yukon Gold Potato, Rosemary and Pecorino pizza.  The crust is perfectly thin with good charring and the toppings were well seasoned and flavorful.  We also tried the pizza with sweet fennel sausage, roasted peppers and provolone and the rich, well devleoped toppings were heaven on that crust.  If you do visit Serious Pie, do me a favor and order the yellowfoot chanterelle and truffle pizza, as it smelled ridiculously good and just sounds like Seattle to me.

April and I had the Schooner Exact King St. Brown Ale while Emily and Courtney went for the Spire Mountain Cider. The Schooner Brown Ale is a medium bodied, brown ale with nice caramel notes and a balanced hop aroma.  The Spire Mountain Cider poured a beautiful liquid gold color, and tasted rendolent of crisp, sweet apples balanced with dry acidity and medium carbonation.  It was so good, I have a cider fermenting in my primary right now trying to reproduce that perfect balance.

Our hotel offered a complimentary wine tasting, so we finished up our day with some wine by the fireplace followed with a rest before dinner.  We decided to again take Rick’s advice and head to Bathtub Gin and Co. in Belltown for an illicit cocktail in a speakeasy behind an unmarked door.  A group of guys graciously offered us the open seats at the bar and we had some of the most delicious, expertly made drinks I have had the pleasure of drinking.  They were every bit as good as Bourbon and Branch but about half the price.  Between the well mannered men, strong cocktails and affordable luxuries, I was swiftly becoming a huge fan of Seattle.

We headed from Bellmont back to Capitol Hill for dinner at a popular gastropub called Quinn’s.  After learning there was an hour wait, we skipped Quinn’s and went a few blocks up to Boom Noodles as we were all starving.  We started with the five spice pork buns and all ordered bowls of steaming noodles.   All the dishes we tried were good but none were outstanding.   I had the pork ramen and it was better than some bowls I’ve tried in San Francisco, but not better than my go to spot, Genki Ramen.  It did fortify us after the strong cocktails and we really didn’t have any complaints.  Full, drowsy and satisfied we headed back to the hotel and introduced Courtney to the TV show/train wreck known as Cheaters.

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Filed under Airline Travel, Beer, Food, Lifestyle, Seattle, Travel, Uncategorized, Wine

Please accept this apology.

Do you ever have a nagging sense you are missing something as you move through your day?  It’s right there on the edge of your brain and it flits away just when you can almost reach it.  I’m a big believer in celebrations for pretty much anything so it was shocking when I finally looked at the calendar and realized it was our big 6 MONTH anniversary.  We made it all these months and are still going strong!

I confidently texted my beloved to let him know of the auspicious date and his reply stopped me in my tracks.  “Yup.  Already made reservations at A16 for tonight.”  Uh what!?  Let’s just say my husband is not known for remembering dates, names, conversations or what he ate for breakfast.  In fact, he reasoned this should be one point in his favor when he “inevitably forgets a birthday or two in the future.”  Good thing I mark his calendar to avoid that cataclysmic event.

To cover my burning shame I decided to take issue with the restaurant choice.  I had been there before and remembered it was “just okay”.  It was “loud” and tasted “ordinary”.  My husband asked me where I wanted to go.  I wasn’t sure.  Maybe just somewhere causal.  But it was a “special” occasion so maybe we should try one of those of those restaurants we always wanted to try but could  never seem to find the time?  Except I couldn’t remember any of them.  (Note to self: make a spreadsheet to avoid this unfortunate situation again.)  So I grudgingly agreed to relinquish control and head to A16.

Oh am I glad we did.

We started off with two glasses of wine at the bar while we waited for our table.  The wine list is fabulous and has many hard to find Italian wines not widely distributed in the US.  Unless you are an expert I suggest letting the sommelier and/or bartender steer you in the right direction.  We threw ourselves at their mercy and were rewarded handsomely.

Our table was a tiny two top sandwiched between a rowdy group of newly minted drinkers and the more comfortable booths lining the wall.  I shrugged off my annoyance and was forced to admit that our poor table placement was due to our last minute reservations and not our hostess.  Determined to make the best of it, I ignored the annoying girl chugging champagne and declaring her regular facebook and twitter updates to the entire restaurant table.

Our server was all business and gave honest answers to all our queries.  Even ridiculous ones like “Is it good?” after hearing the burrata they serve is considered the best in the country.  Yes that was me and my only defense is that it wasn’t house made and I am always plagued by the anxiety of ordering the very. best. thing. when I eat out.

Rest assured the burrata is the most delightful, wonderous thing I have ever eaten and I cannot stop thinking about returning if only for another plate of this cheese all to myself.  It’s perfectly silky with a firmer texture outside with an outrageously rich, creamy inside that sings of resplendent dairy  with a salty grassy flavor.  I really liked it.  The bread is perfectly toasted and thinly sliced to showcase the burrata in all it’s glory.

We finished the dregs of our white wine with the cheese and took the sommelier’s advice to get two more glasses instead of a bottle or carafe in an effort to try more of their unique selection.  We went with her selection of two wonderful wines from Campania and they went wonderfully with the rest of our meal.  (I know I’m a terrible blogger for forgetting our wine choices and leaving you hanging.  I promise to be better next time.)

We followed the burrata with the server’s recommendation for the maccaronara with ragu napoletana and house-made ricotta salata.  I am the first to admit that I resisted this order.  I wanted to try the more earthy, complex cavatelli di grano arso with ragu bianco or pumpkin and ricotta gnocchi but our entree was a rich pork dish so I pouted a little and ordered the maccaronara.  Thick, chewy house made pasta was perfectly cooked and the rich, complex ragu clung to the strands perfectly.  The ricotta salada was tangy and salty, perfectly complementing the dish.  We split the small portion and it was just enough to get a taste for the dish while leaving us wanting more.  We probably could have ordered the larger plate but we both were raised to never waste food and definitely would have fought to the death until every last bit was inhaled leaving us uncomfortably full before the entrée.

I love pork.  There really is nothing better than a beautifully cooked piece of pork that is full of flavor and FAT.  Too often this is not what we get when we order this sometimes maligned and mistreated protein.  A16 knows how to cook some pork.  We ordered the braised pork shoulder with persimmon jam and hazelnuts.  The pork shoulder was tender with a complex, meaty taste ringed in crispy fat and seasoned perfectly.  The persimmon jam was the perfect foil for the richly flavored meat and crispy toasted hazelnuts.  Simply delicious.

Seeing as this was a special occasion we were powerless to resist a peek at the dessert menu.  I always assure Roem I “just want to look” but he really knows there is no stopping me when just the dessert descriptions cause me to shiver in delight and start reading aloud.  We decided on the chocolate budino tart with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil and a glass of the paired 2006 Roberto Zeni, Trento-Trentino, Moscato Rosa wine.  The tart was full of complex textures with a dense, semisweet crust and a silky, luscious filling redolent of deep chocolate flavor.   The silky olive oil and salt perfectly highlighted the rich flavors in the tart.  The wine was sweet without being cloying, retaining its complex fruit flavor and luscious mouthfeel without veering into overly jammy territory.   It cut through the rich chocolate flavors and really complemented the dessert.

Yum.

So my true anniversary gift to my wonderful husband is a big, public YOU WERE RIGHT.  And really I can’t be too upset about the whole outcome because at the expense of personal pride came one of the best dinners I’ve had in a long time.  If I had to choose, I’d trade one for the other any time.

So now I’m starving and plotting my next restaurant adventure.  Maybe Meatball Mondays at A16 next week?

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Filed under Anniversary, Food, Restaurants, San Francisco, Uncategorized, Wine