Monday, August 24, 2009


Skillet Street Food

During our recent trip to Seattle I was enlightened to learn that even people who work at über hip places like Seattle's mobile restaurant Skillet have bad days at work. On Fridays no less.

On this particular cold, gray Seattle late morning Skillet was parked in Queen Anne for its lunch service. Upon our arrival, it was clear the morning was off to a rough start for its crew. A woman ahead of us ordered a burger and we dutifully followed suit, upping our order of two burgers and a side of poutine with cheddars, gravy and herbs, which I'd been dreaming about for weeks. A sweet kid with a folding table and cash box reminiscent of elementary school bake sales took our dough, only to be informed moments later by a voice from deep within the bowels of the airstream that three burgers would not be possible. Glancing at my watch, I was admittedly a tad confused, seeing as it was barely 11:00 a.m., the official start time for Skillet's lunch service. In a completely selfless and "pay it forward" manner, the woman who had ordered burger numero uno turned to us and said, "Have you had the burger before?" I confessed that no, we had not, adding for extra sympathy that we were in town from Utah, and were aching to try Skillet. "I can get the burger anytime," she assured us. "You take it and I'll have the roasted pork instead." Seemed simple--and entirely kind--enough.

We soon realized the key issue at stake was not the number of burgers on hand but rather the Airstream's hood, which had decided to get an early start on the weekend and was filling the vehicle with smoke anytime they tried to fire up the grill. But the chef du jour powered through, delivering:

Skillet Street Food Burger

The Burger: Oregon Natural Beef, Cambazola, Arugula, Bacon Jam, Soft Roll, Handcut French Fries - $7.50

True to my complicated relationship with meat I am clearly no connoisseur of burgers, so my praise (that the burger was juicy, the bacon jam a savory alternative that appeased my disappointment over the absence of cheese) may fall on deft ears. But J is quite the epicure when it comes to this American Classic, and for a roach coach with a bum hood he was notably impressed. Now burger enthusiast he may be, but ketchup fan he is not--yet he found the house-made ketchup at Skillet actually tasted like fresh, summer tomatoes.

Skillet Street Food Burger 2

We were still dusting fry salt off our hands when a Budget rental van pulled up and the trailer was hitched to the back, pulling the plug on Skillet's Friday afternoon in Queen Anne. Many thanks to the stranger who went with the roasted pork sandwich in order to make our Skillet burger dreams a reality.

- K

Skillet Street Food
Refer to the web site for a location near you

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Black Bottle

Black Bottle Seattle Exterior

Comedian Chelsea Handler recommends spending one full week each year with one's family. Personally, I find a slightly modified version of this--two to three days at a time, two to three times throughout the year--works best, and keeps my parents at bay on issues like 1) Why didn't I catch an earlier ferry to their place and 2) Why haven't I produced any grandchildren.

These carefully constructed jaunts to the Pacific Northwest are also most successful when they begin and end with an eating spree in Seattle. During our recent stopover in the Emerald City we happened upon urban tavern Black Bottle. Even though the Belltown hangout was closed during our first stroll by at 3:30 in the afternoon, it still looked positively welcoming: wrought iron tables lined its sidewalk and large glass windows told the story of a place that would be bustling by 5 with neighbors ready to usher in the weekend. A menu printed in lowercase (since Happy Hour has no place for punctuation) and posted at the door divided the locally-sourced selections into six mouth-watering and reasonably-priced categories: meat, seafood, veggies, flatbread, "also" (read sides) and sweets all priced at or under $12 (with most coming in at $8). But while the prices and descriptions may suggest small plates, the dishes we tried were anything but.

Lemon Caper Squid Salad: $8

Fresh and light, this salad came with a bounty of calamari considering the nominal price tag.

Black Bottle Seattle Salad

Fresh Sardines Namban: $8

Delicately fried fillets married with vinegar, soy sauce, onion and hot and sweet peppers.

Black Bottle Seattle Sardines 2

Black Bottle's wine markup looked to be upwards of 100% in some cases, but fortunately is still approachable enough for those of us who don't have stock in Microsoft. We settled on a 2007 Steele Wines Cab Franc ($38) served in rather dinky wine glasses which, unlike the bar's food menu, did leave something to be desired. It was the motivation we needed to make our way to my parents' house and the refuge of their more bulbous glassware.

- K

Black Bottle
2600 1st Avenue + Vine
Seattle, WA 98121

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Main Street Wine Cellar

Back when I was a dichotomous wallflower/sixth grade cheerleader living in the Bay Area, urban legend had it that the kids in the neighborhood had a not-so-PG-13 use for Pop Rocks. Following the candy's hiatus from--and eventual return to--the market, folks south of the bay have found a much more civilized--but admittedly less scandalous--use for the cult classic: imbedding the carbonated candy in truffles.

At Seal Beach's Main Street Wine Cellar, $10 will get you a flight of six chocolates prepared by So-Cal artisan Chuao Chocolatier--one of which will snap, crackle and pop in your mouth. I suppose I have just blown the surprise on the above-referenced "Firecracker" truffle, but I do so in the hope that people will seek out this nifty little piece of nostalgia enveloped in adulthood.

Front and right you'll find the Firecracker, complete with chipotle, salt and popping candy. Other selections include:

Melao - Salt butter caramel filled
Pan con Chocolat - Roasted Panko bread, olive oil ganache and sea salt (even hubba hubba Bobby Flay is talking about it)
Framboise - Raspberry "pate de fruit" layered over almond hazelnut prailine
Grignottines White - White chocolate with roasted and carmelized almond slivers, pistachio and orange peel
Gran Cacao - Bittersweet ganache with 73% cacao

Mumm Napa Sparkling Rose
Never one to abandon my roots, we chased the chocolate with a bottle of Northern Cal's Mumm Napa Sparkling Rosé.

The mood at Main Street Wine Cellar (which recently replaced the previous tenant, Vino Voyage) was pleasantly easy and unpretentious: we strolled in with sand between our toes and swimsuits under our clothes, but still we were allowed to indulge in chocolate, wine and adolescent memories in absolute peace.

- K

Main Street Wine Cellar
302 Main Street
Seal Beach, CA 90740

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