Tuesday, August 31, 2010

queen anne & the pintxos

Monday afternoon, after checking out Seattle Center, Steve and I walked up to Queen Anne.  And by "up," I mean "up."  We climbed a monster hill on Queen Anne Ave N to get to the main commercial area of the neighborhood.  It was like the worst stretch of hill that we often walk up in our neighborhood, except that it went on for about 7 blocks.  We saw someone on a bike that was going about as fast as we were walking.

When we finally made it up the hill, we found that Queen Anne was pretty nice.  It was quite noticeably quieter than the other neighborhoods had been (and less edgy too), perhaps because of that hill.  Anyway, we found a cute diner that had been on my list of lunch places at one time.  We had already eaten lunch that day, but I took a picture of the sign, since I liked it.  This was also about the time that I realized just how many neon signs we had seen on our trip.  Seattleites must like neon signs.

Walking around, we stopped at a toy store called Once Upon a Time on Queen Anne.  It was a nice-sized house that had been converted into a toy store.  The downstairs seemed like a normal boutique toy store with the typical strollers and things, but the upstairs was more surprising.  There were several rooms, each devoted to something different: books, games, dinnerware with designs, dress-up clothes, etc.  We looked around for a while, but we ended up coming back downstairs and buying greeting cards, of all things.  We found some adorable birthday cards, cuter than many that I've seen in San Francisco, so we stocked up.  Afterward, I took a picture of the wooden animals in the store's window.

We continued up Queen Anne Ave, passing a fancy grocery store and another restaurant that's on my list for next time: How to Cook a Wolf.  It's the Ethan Stowell restaurant that had the most appealing menu to me, but we weren't going to be around Queen Anne at dinner time on this visit.

Coming to the end of the commercial area, we crossed the street and turned around.  We looked around at a game store, and then we found Chocolopolis, a chocolate store.  Steve and I each picked a truffle to try, and we sat down to eat them.  His wasn't memorable, but mine—adzuki bean, white ganache, and raspberry—was really good.  We ended up buying a little box of truffles that included another adzuki bean truffle and others from the same collection.

Because we were due for another coffee shop, part two of our afternoon snack was at Caffe Fiore, down a side street.  Of course, coffee didn't actually sound that good to me at the time.  It seemed a shame not to take advantage of the high quality coffee, but all I really wanted was a big glass of water.  So Steve got a cappuccino, and I got up to refill my water glass a few times. 

From there, we walked to Kerry Park.  It's a park in the middle of a Queen Anne residential area, and it has one of the best views of the Seattle skyline.

I took some pictures, Steve stood in the middle of the big sculpture, and that was about it.  As far as scenic overlooks go, it was a good one.

I had read about another overlook a few short blocks away, so we decided to check that out next.  On the way, we walked through the neighborhood and ogled a few gorgeous houses.

The second scenic overlook was facing more westward, so the view was of Smith Cove, rather than downtown Seattle.

Kitty corner to the overlook, there was a public garden.  We did a quick pass around the place and found it to be small, but charming.

It was pretty much just a circular path through some trees, around a little clearing, but they had some nice poppies for me to photograph.

Retracing our steps, we walked back to Kerry Park and then headed down the hill, taking quieter streets through the neighborhood rather than Queen Anne Ave.  That way, we got to see some more fun houses on our way.  We were trying to get to 2nd Ave in Belltown, but we ended up detouring through the Seattle Center again, since 2nd Ave didn't go straight through from Roy St.  In the process, we found a fountain set to music and a skate park (no interesting pictures to post of that).  Finally, we reached Belltown.

We walked down 2nd Ave, passing Chrissy and Kevin's apartment building and reaching our dinner destination.  It was about 5pm—a little early for dinner—but we were hungry already.  And since our feet were tired from walking all day, it made sense to eat while we were near the restaurant, rather than having to walk back and forth again later.

The restaurant in question was Pintxo, named after the Basque version of Spanish tapas.  I came across a restaurant named Txori while I was doing my research for the trip.  It sounded like our kind of place, and the pictures I found on Flickr looked great, so I put it on our list.  This was probably around March.  Then, when I got back into serious trip planning mode in May, I found out that Txori had closed.  But, wait!  A couple of their regulars were opening their own very similar restaurant (Pintxo) in the same space that very week! 

The story gets more interesting, though.  When I emailed my "to do/go/eat" list to Kevin and Chrissy, they told me that a friend of theirs was one of these new owners and that they were planning to have their rehearsal dinner at Pintxo.  That pretty much cemented Pintxo's spot on my list.  We were invited to the rehearsal dinner on Friday, but I conferred with Chrissy and decided that we would skip it and go ourselves on Monday.  It worked better for our schedule and saved their families some money.

When we arrived at Pintxo, we were the only ones there.  Sadly, their outdoor seating in the back wasn't open, so we didn't get to sit out there.  (The weather had gone from sunny and warm to a little chilly and threatening to rain.)  Instead, we sat at a tall table with a view of the little kitchen and bar.

We were served some crostini with a pea spread to start (see above).  The pea spread was good, but the toasts seemed a little stale.  Meanwhile, we looked over the menu and tried to decide what to order.  I let Steve take the lead on this one, and our first dish was the Rice Morcilla.

Rice Morcilla  
3 seared slices topped with piquillo peppers, popcorn, bittersweet chocolate, paprika salt

They were slices of sausage with several unexpected things on top.  The piquillo peppers weren't surprising, nor was the paprika salt, but I certainly wouldn't have thought to pair all that with popcorn and bittersweet chocolate.  I really liked it.

Next, we got couple bacon-wrapped dates, but more on those later.  After those came the pork belly dish that Steve wanted to try:
Pork Belly with Garbanzo Beans
Slow roasted pork belly served on a bed of spiced garbanzo beans stewed in vegetable broth


It was just okay.  I don't go wild over pork belly anyway, but Steve didn't think the skin was crisp enough.  The beans and broth were good, but again, the bread was a little stale.

We tried a bocadillo (sandwich) next:
Prosciutto Sandwich
Olive spread, roasted peppers, and a young manchego cheese atop locally baked bread


The combination of flavors was good, but the bread was a weak link.  Hopefully it was just an off day; otherwise, they really need to get a better source for their bread.  (Daily.)
We continued Steve's survey of all things pork with some sliders.

Pork Sliders
Stewed in vegetable broth with cayenne, lemon juice, cinnamon on brioche with chimichurri

I enjoyed these, and I don't remember having issues with the bread for once.  Mostly, I just remember the pork having a nice combination of acid, sweetness, and porkiness.

Continuing our second round of food, we had some steamed clams and mussels.
Steamed Clams and Mussels
Penn Cove Mussels and Manila Clams steamed in a Garnacha Rose and vegetable broth

Clams and mussels: good.  Bread: meh.  That about sums it up.
At this point, it was time for dessert.  None of the desserts really called out to me, so we just requested another order of the bacon wrapped dates that we had had earlier.
Bacon Wrapped Dates
Sweet dates stuffed with a creamy goat cheese and wrapped in bacon

Our first order was only two dates, but they doubled it for our second order.  It was a perfect ending for our dinner.  Bacon-wrapped fruit is always a good idea, especially stuffed with goat cheese.  Usually, we do plums at home, but the dates worked perfectly too.  Best part of the meal.
We dragged ourselves back to the hotel after dinner and made one more stop at the fifth floor viewing deck.  I had taken pictures there after dinner on Friday night, but these came out better.
deck view
So that was the view from the deck of the Inn at the Market.  After that, we were really happy to go back to our room and not do much the rest of the evening.

Total miles walked that day: approximately 7.6 

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