Monday, November 01, 2010

Field Report: Salivating in Seattle

Ah, if I only had minions. No, I don't want to take over the world like the Brain did every evening back at the lab. I'd just like to know more, and thus tell you more, about what's good in our upper-left-hand corner of the country. But thank goodness for friends, the kind that help me get by, like Nancy Hunt and Randy Goodman of Bar Avignon, who kindly agreed to share info from a quick trip up north.

The four bosses from Bar Avignon recently took a trip up to Seattle for a corporate retreat and some R & D (research & drinking). Here is a brief recap:

After the beautiful, sunny (NOT) drive up from Portland on I-5 (has that ever happened in October?)…er, let me start over…after the wet and traffic-clogged drive up from Portland we made our first stop the cozy Ace Hotel in Belltown, a perfect location for our base camp.

It's a few blocks from our all-time favorite Seattle spot le Pichet (left). In the 15-plus years of visiting Seattle this has become our touchstone—our Zuni Cafe, if you will—of the Pacific Northwest. A three-piece jazz combo and steamy windows welcomed us from the sideways rain falling on 1st Avenue. After diving into the onion soup  and a simple green salad with a nice, tart vinaigrette, plus a demi of Languedoc Rosé, we were revitalized.

After a stroll through the Pike Place Market (Why oh why do they keep torturing those poor tourists, as well as the dead line-caught/sustainable Chinook salmon, by throwing them all over the place anyway? Sorry for the side note, but I just don't get it.), down the Pike Street Hill climb to the world famous Zig Zag Cafe for a few amazing cocktails from our new best friend/bartender Erik (top photo). This place is old school and classic in the best sense. Make sure you tell them Kelly sent you from June in Portland…I guess its' some kind of bartender secret code or something.

Off to the Corson Building for a simple and well-executed dinner in an amazing building south of downtown. It's a beautiful setting and a very good value for a Sunday night supper ($65 including drinkable wine). Finished the night at Smith (right) on Capitol Hill, a comfortable spot with an uncommon beer selection and a good looking menu. Too full to try anything.

The next morning was a breakfast/lunch at le Pichet after a morning walk. I know this is the second time, but we couldn't resist. Chef and A tasted all of the charcuterie, Nancy and I had the onion soup and a couple of simple salads; with a splash of white and pink we were on our way.

A bit of shopping was had by all, accompanied by lots of downtown walking, then a cab ride up to Ballard to visit The Walrus and the Carpenter (left). This little gem is owned by Renee of the Boat Street Cafe fame, and what a gem it is. Small and well-thought-out with an amazing array of oysters, great Muscadet by the glass and a small but all encompassing cocktail program. We tried a good portion of the menu and everything was spot-on, from service to oyster shucking. This is a must-visit spot on your next trek up North.

Next was a stellar dinner at Cascina Spinasse (right) on Capitol Hill, at 1531 14th Avenue between Pike and Pine. Haven't had a restaurant meal this seamless in a long time, perfect service—warm and caring, anticipated our needs, knew the wine list extremely well. We tried all of the pastas and Chef said that this was some of the best pasta he has ever had. Just trust me and go there and trust the server and the chef through your evening. Can't wait to go back.

We walked down the hill and ducked into Bathtub Gin & Co. for a nightcap. There was an obnoxious birthday party upstairs,  but we found a cozy spot downstairs near the poker table. That is all I'm allowed to say.

After a gallon-and-a-half of Stumptown Hairbender the next morning we were off to SAM for the Picasso Show (left), which was amazing. Since I don't speak anything but cellar French it's hard for me to comment on. Just go before the middle of January.

It was worth the drive to go le Pichet (twice) and the museum, so check out some of these other places as well. Watch out for the flying salmon and the speakeasies or whatever they call them.

Read Randy's missive from Vancouver, BC ('08): Report from the Real 'Couv.

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