Friday, June 25, 2010

evening in seattle

The time has come to talk of many things: of trips and transit and trolls.  Of coffee and cupcakes.  Of food and flowers and aching feet.

I speak, of course, of the Seattle trip.  In my usual pattern, it's been about 3 weeks since the trip, and I'm slowly catching up with the processing and posting of the pictures I took—a necessary first step before blogging can commence.  But I have the images of our first evening up on Flickr, so as I said, the time has come.
Steve and I took BART to SFO on Thursday morning, June 3.  From there, Alaska Airlines delivered us to SeaTac Airport, with free WiFi on the plane!  Upon arrival, we collected our luggage and walked the endless path around one side of the parking garage to the light rail station.  We bought tickets, boarded a train, and a little over half an hour later, we were getting off at the end of the line at Westlake Station.  Then, all we had to do was walk about three blocks down Pine St. to Inn at the Market.

Our room on the 7th floor had a view of the street—cheaper than a water view—and free WiFi.  As an added bonus, we also had an iPod dock in place of the typical alarm clock/radio.  I tried it out while we got ready for dinner.
We headed out a little early, because I wanted to check out a couple of shops that wouldn't be open (or on the way) on our other days in town.  Luckily, we got to them before they closed for the day. 
First up was Fancy, a store of mostly jewelry.  We didn't buy anything, but they had some cute stuff and some random stuff.  I didn't need any crushed soda cans made out of porcelain... maybe next time.

Our second stop was a surprise to me.  I knew about Fancy and its sister store Schmancy, but we came across Nancy as well.  This one was dedicated to handmade goods and had a more earthy feel, as opposed to Fancy's more modern, clean aesthetic.  Again, we looked and didn't buy anything, but I liked the owls in the window.

Last was the aforementioned Schmancy, specializing in quirky toys. 

This is where we found the perfect gift for Carmen: a stuffed mustache.  We purchased one to take home to her, and then we continued down 2nd Ave., toward our restaurant for dinner.

We had reservations at Restaurant Zoe in Belltown.  It was a place I first saw featured in a Flickr contacts' photos, but then I kept seeing it on various other lists of good Seattle restaurants as well.  After Kevin included it in his email of recommendations for us, I decided we might as well try it out.
To drink, Steve ordered their version of a Manhattan ("Regrade Manhattan") while I chose a more girly drink called "Spring Flowers." 
spring flowers  belvedere vodka, st. germain elderflower liqueur, fresh lemon sour, shaken and topped with la spinetta moscato d'asti
Despite its girliness, I thought it was a very good, refreshing cocktail—not too sweet.  I may have to hunt down some elderflower liqueur someday.
After we ordered, we were served an amuse bouche of little toasts with smoked steelhead mousse.  It was a good start to the trip.  "Welcome to Seattle; have some smoked fish!"  It had a subtle smoked flavor and wasn't overly fishy.
And onto the food that we ordered...  Steve and I decided to get a bunch of small plates to share, rather than order any entrees, so that we could try more dishes.  The first plate to come out was the one I was most looking forward to, after looking at the menu online and reading reviews on Yelp: ricotta gnudi.
fresh ricotta gnudi  artichoke relish, lemon oil, sweet salt
The gnudi were soft and pillowy like gnocchi, but made from ricotta.  (Pasta made from cheese? Win-win.)  Served with an artichoke relish that tasted a little like olives, the flavors balanced each other really well.  I'm not a big fan of olive-like flavors, but I was willing to admit that the acid helped break up the richness of the ricotta.
Also in the first round, we received our crab cake.  Being home to so much fresh seafood, we had to order at least one crab cake while we were in Seattle.  (Nevermind that we live in SF, where dungeness crab is also local and readily available.)  It was still the height of asparagus season, so the dish featured asparagus as a big part of the salad topping the crab.
dungeness crab  brioche crouton, green asparagus, scallion
The verdict: solid dish and probably one I'd order again, but it didn't really blow me away.  I seem to remember thinking that it could use a few more pickled onions (the pink bits), since those provided the occasional bit of tang.  Too much acid would overwhelm the flavor of the crab, but I would have appreciated a little more to complement the asparagus.
Next Emily-trap on the menu: risotto.  We had to order it, especially since I now know that I am not allergic to pine nuts.  (Steve and I did an experiment with pesto a couple weeks before the trip.)
spring risotto  sorrel, mascarpone, fines herbes, pinenuts
All the components sounded good to me.  I like mascarpone, and I had had sorrel in pasta at Range, so I figured I should like it here too.  Sorrel is a vegetable/herb that's somewhat acidic and works pretty well with cheese and citrus.  I wasn't exactly sure what they meant by "fines herbes" on the menu, but a little online research shows that they generally include parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil.  Again, sounds good in theory.

In reality, it wasn't quite right.  Besides the risotto being borderline undercooked, it was too salty and a little too acidic.  Now that I read more about sorrel, I think the problem was either that there was too much of it or it was too mature.  Sorrel gets more acidic with age, and they probably tried to balance that with more salt.  I would probably put in more mascarpone (mild cheese) to mellow it, but that might dull the flavor and necessitate more salt as well.  In any case, it's always a little disappointing when restaurant risotto isn't as good as the stuff Steve makes.
That round of food continued with some seared foie gras.  I had only had it in terrine form—like paté—in the past, so I was curious to try it prepared in a different way.  
seared sonoma foie gras  watercress, riesling syrup, brioche

Unfortunately, it was another dish that neither of us particularly liked.  I think the riesling syrup was what killed it for me.  Between that and the candied orange peel garnish, there was too much sweet.  It was kind of cloying.  They can't all be winners, I guess.
Happily, our last selection was, in fact, a winner.
confit of lamb heart  horseradish cream, miners lettuce, preserved meyer lemon
Steve was the one who suggested we order the confit of lamb heart; I didn't know what to expect from the dish.  It ended up being very thin slices of lamb with greens and sauce, and it was not at all obvious that the meat had once been in the shape of a heart—an anatomically correct one, of course.  In fact, the flavor and texture just reminded me of the cold roast beef sandwiches of my childhood.  (That's a good thing, by the way.)  I mostly avoided the horseradish cream, since I don't really like horseradish, but the greens were pleasant.  Supposedly, there was preserved meyer lemon in there somewhere too, but I'm not sure where it was.
At this point, we were both getting pretty full, but we had to look at the dessert menu anyway.  Despite the coconut panna cotta and lemon semolina cake both sounding good, we decided to go with something a little lighter.  Our server informed us that the ice cream of the day, made by the bartender's ice cream company, was basil.  I'm a fan of Steve's basil ice cream, so we tried some.
Their basil ice cream was apparently an infusion, so the ice cream didn't have the green color or flecks of basil that Steve's does.  The base was good and creamy, though, and the little leaf-shaped cookie was a nice touch.
After dinner, we still had an hour or two of daylight, so we walked down 2nd Avenue a little further, then down to the waterfront.  Heading north, we came to a little pier, and I took pictures of the water, mountains, ferries, etc.
There was also this fountain, which provided a nice photo op to include the Space Needle.
We found ourselves at the foot of the Olympic Sculpture Park, so we looked around a little bit before deciding that we needed to head back while there was still some light in the sky.  The park was on my list of things to see, so it was good to check it off, even though I'm pretty certain we didn't do it justice.
Walking back along Alaskan Way in the direction of our hotel, we stopped for a few more pictures in the fading light.  The waterfront had some nice details, like the ship wheels on the railing posts.

I even got a few pictures of the skyline, even though it started to get a little drizzly by that point.  It made me a bit nervous, since I didn't really want to put my camera away, but it didn't end up actually raining.
The tricky part was trying to get from Alaskan Way back up to the other side of Pike Place Market.  Between the big hill, the many long buildings of the market, the highway aqueduct, and very few roads going all the way through, it was challenging to find our way back to the hotel.  We ended up finding a random steep stairway around where Pine St. would be and climbed that up to Western Ave.  It was a step (several actually) in the right direction, but we still had to get to the higher elevation on the opposite side of Pike Place Market.  We were at the back of the long string of buildings, and they were all closed for the night.  So we walked along Western Ave., beside the market buildings, until we finally found some stairs up at Union St.  Again, there were a lot of steps—that's one big hill—but we were finally at 1st Ave.
public market center
Looking at Google Maps again now, I can see that we kind of took the long way around.  If we had gone left instead of right at Western Ave., we would have only had to walk about one block instead of two to get around the buildings.  But the way that we went, we got to pass the main neon sign at the end of Pike St. for the market.  The secondary one was near our hotel, at the end of Pine St., but this one was more exciting.  So the extra detour wasn't all bad.

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