Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dreaming in Seattle: A Foodie Guide to Big Foot Country

Seattle: a city where everyone is so hopped up on caffeine, they don’t mind walking vertically. I caught the buzz last week. It would have been almost impossible not to… (and over here, we have Starbucks, and if you look down the street, just past the Starbucks… oh, yeah, that’s another Starbucks).

A view from West Seattle

While it’s true, there are probably more Starbucks’ than germs on the Post Alley gum wall (below), Seattle has a lot more to offer than the worlds most loved/hated coffee. In fact, Seattle has kind of got it going on. Case in point: Pike Place Market (tour courtesy of Saveur Food Tours).

Leaving forensic evidence on the Gum Wall

Scenes from Pike Market Place

At the famed institution, you can stuff your face with impossibly fluffy donuts, get some laxative tea, catch a salmon, and buy your girlfriend some flowers (chances are, if you’ve been together long enough, she’s probably mad at you). At face value, it’s a consumer paradise for cheap, good Seattle eats; however, don’t miss a chance to delve into the market’s history. It is clearly portrayed through murals throughout the market. Its tale is as good as the food… almost. 

Donuts, tea, and smoked salmon... it's all about pairing
So many food gems surround the market; it’s like the advanced level of minesweeper, and you want to land on these mines. Piroshky, Piroshky, your light, fluffy dough sings a song that unfreezes my cold, rained out heart (oh, wait, the weather was actually beautiful while we were there; we’ll pretend for effect). Yep, it sure rained a lot. And how can we forget Beecher’s cheese, where you can watch the birth of the little cheese curd babies that you will soon be devouring in the form of their famous macaroni and cheese. Delicious murder.

We are in Seattle, the land of Tom Douglas, so a stop in at Etta’s for a dungeness crab cake is definitely in order. Fortunately, Sir Douglas knows that it is called a crab cake, and not an everything-but-crab-cake. People, take notes. Also note, you can get some damn good breakfast downtown at his restaurant Serious Pie/Biscuit.

The market is indeed a damn good way to get familiar with the city’s eats; however, there are a few other things you should cross off your list if you really want the true Seattle experience, and each comes in a different neighborhood.

Venture over to West Seattle via water taxi and have yourself some Kimchi Fried Rice at Marinator Ma Kai. You can sit at a picnic table and take in the view of Seattle from across the Bay. Make the rounds and find yourself at Alki beach, possibly molesting seal statues… no one is really sure what’s happening here.

Next, ride the 40 bus with a diverse collection of the cities more frugal folks up to 36th street in Fremont. Get off, head north, and pop into one of the best damn sandwich shops I have ever been in. Seriously, Dot’s Delicatessen knows how to do a sandwich. The high quality bread, meats, and dressings make for my standout food experience for the whole trip. Try the Porchetta. Thank me later.

Have brunch in Capital Hill. Sure, it’s probably better known as the party central and a haven for the GLBT crowd, but Capital Hill knows how to cure a hangover: delicious brunch. Take part in this culinary right of passage at Skillet Diner. You can cry into a cinnamon roll the size of a salad plate, or rejoice over a waffle topped with two eggs and a slice of crispy pork belly.

Weave your way through the factories that line the streets of the Ballard neighborhood and make a game out of finding Walrus and the Carpenter. The humble sign and long hallway reveal a tiny, 42-person occupancy room where nine employees provide the true Seattle experience: honest, good seafood. Oysters shucked right in front of you (smell test included). Steak tartar made to order right in view. Truly a treat, even if you have to wait an hour, despite being at the restaurant at 4:15 on a Sunday (FYI they open at 4:00).

Also, don’t stick you nose up at the more popular Seattle sights. Be the tourist that you are (who are you kidding, you’re wearing Uggs in 70 degree weather) and visit the space needle and the Chihuly glass museum. You owe it to yourself to shove yourself in that tin-can elevator with a bunch of foreigners! Woo!

Final word of advice: walk. It’s the best way to get to know a city and its residents, even if one of those neighborly inhabitants is wielding a rather large wooden knife and having an intimate battle of one on the street corner across from you (5 bucks on the guy with the knife).

Here are some other mentionable delicious finds:

IFBC sponsor and my official thirst quencher

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Traveling the World in One Evening: Anise Global Gastrobar

It’s not often that a restaurant asks you to take a seat and travel the world. Most prefer you stay firmly planted in the soil of their country of choice; Anise Global Gastrobar is not one of these restaurants. While there is nothing wrong with giving into cravings for a particular country’s beautifully rendered edible offerings, Anise asks that you open your eyes not to a country, but to the world.
Dabble in the art of dressing soft, supple Korean steamed buns with fresh ingredients, all transformed by techniques from French to Southern cooking. Entertain yourself devouring a tower of pork resting stoically atop a delicious Venezuelan arepa. Induce heart palpitations with the mouth-watering promise of chicken wings doused in delicious, Indian curry sauce. And do all of this while drinking a masterfully designed cocktail from Florida mixologist, Rohit Patel, whose drinks can be awed or sipped at other Tampa staples, such as Fly Bar & Restaurant.

I’m already planning my next visit to Anise. Here are a few photographs and descriptions that will have you joining me:

Sangre “The Blackbird” – white wine sangria with wonderful pairings of elderflower, peach, and blackberry
Old Fashioned Old Fashioned – no muss, no fuss, just a delicious old fashioned made with woodford reserve
May I present to you, a staple at any Hurt culinary brainchild, the stinky bun.
Braised Pork Belly Stinky Bun – the food truck inspired Korean dish with spicy kimchi evokes three words: hook, line, and sinker
Red Curried Crispy Chicken Stinky Bun – the flavors of India and the techniques of the south combine for this comforting bun
Chinese BBQ Pork Stinky Bun – pickled radish adds an edge to this yummy bun, filled with the flavors of the East
Truffled Tator Tots – served with a lemon parsley crème fraiche, these nibbles are an approachable take on a modern delicacy
Grilled Shrimp Tacos – sriracha candied bacon (YES!), papaya slaw, and ginger aioli make for an inventive take on a classic
Duck Confit Tacos – beautiful duck confit, dripping with fat and topped with pickled daikon radish, fresh jalapeno, and hoisin bbq (Note: I practically went into convulsions when I ate this taco, if there is anything you have to have at Anise, for me, it is this dish!)
Roast Pork Stack – fluffy jalapeno and mozzarella arepas, topped with jicama and napa slaw and roasted pork
Roast Veggie Panini – for the vegetarians, vegetable lovers, and goat cheese fanatics out there, take on this yummy sandwich
Roasted Beet Salad – roasted chicken breast resting atop a bed of spicy arugula, spinach, goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, and a tangy grapefruit vinaigrette
Thai Donuts – fluffy donuts, covered in roasted peanuts and covered in sticky, sweetened condensed milk
I'd ike to give a special thanks to my friends, Elizabeth, Jose, and Andrea for joining me on this 'trip'. It's the people who will share their food with you that you should keep around; I've found a few keepers. 
There isn't much left to say to convince you that Anise should be added to your 'must-eat' list. Thank you, Kevin and Xuan Hurt, for this wonderful addition to the Tampa food scene!

Anise Global Gastrobar on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dishcrawl + Downtown Tampa = Delicious Well-Traveled Food Baby

I won’t crawl for much… dropped a contact on the floor? Sure, I’ll crawl around and help you out. Practicing your one-meow part in the theatrical production of Cats? Okay, I’ll get on the floor with you and help you master your best feline moves. And then there’s food. I’ll crawl for food. And since the first two examples are a little more sporadic, we’ll just have to put those posts on hold and stick with the delicious grub I've had at many a Dishcrawl event. Not sure if dishcrawl is for you? Riddle me this…

Do you like experiences like al fresco dining? Do you like to arrive at that outdoor table to find it covered in charcuterie? Then dishcrawl is for you.
Charcuterie at Pelagia
Do you like to sample dishes at some of the hottest restaurants in Tampa without having to go to the back to wash dishes? Then dishcrawl is for you.
A Sample of Pelagia's Wonderful Food
Sautéed Veal with Porcini Mushrooms and Truffle Cream Sauce
Grilled Pear and Watercress Salad
Housemade Cavatelli Pasta
Do you like to sit around beautiful men and women stuffing their faces and guzzling wine without a care in the world? Then dishcrawl is for you.
This upcoming Tuesday, Dishcrawl Tampa will travel the culinary landmine of Downtown Tampa. You can look forward to a stop at the new restaurant Anise Global Gastrobar, and if charcuterie, saving money, and new friends can’t tempt you, how about some red curry wings, truffled tater tots, and Chinese BBQ Pork stinky buns?

Clearly, you should got to the Dishcrawl website and buy your ticket for July 16th crawl using the promo code ‘anise’ for $5 off. Make sure to arrive at 6:45 so we can enjoy a cocktail together before happy hour ends!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Life is Full of Surprises: Not Surprising, Oystercatchers is Extremely Yummy

Life can bring you all sorts of surprises. Surprise! Someone backed into your car while you were in the grocery store. Surprise! That cute guy from OkCupid is really an 80-year-old with a foot fetish. Surprise! You were just crotch punched by Miguel live on the billboard awards. (below)

What else is surprising? Well, besides that fact that this is the way I chose to open my review of Oystercatchers, nothing. Nothing is surprising about the deliciousness I encountered there. Well, maybe we can stretch our imaginations. Sure, there were no crotches flying at my face, and I left pleasantly without a dent in my car (thanks valet guy!), but I did have a bowl of crème brulee to end my meal. Yes. A bowl. Gasp!
A meal at Oystercatchers must be had on their bay view patio, because while the fact that waterside sunsets are absolutely breathtaking is not a surprise, it is surprising that is isn’t too hard to get a table on this beautiful deck on a weeknight at 7 pm. It’s part of the Hyatt, for goodness sakes.
Enjoy being greeted by fluffy sourdough bread with accompanying unsalted butter and potent, grey sea salt. Surprise yourself with how quickly you can devour all of that bread, despite your low-carb diet.
Drink wine… Realize that there is nothing surprising about this, because you are an alcoholic. Bleh.
Have some ridiculously fresh mussels, remark on how surprisingly large they are: "These mussels are bigger than the roided out freak at the gyms." Can you say 'compensation'?
Mediterranean Mussel Saute
Have some corn and crab bisque. Find their unique take surprisingly refreshing!
Corn and Crab Bisque
Order a delicious entree. Be astounded by the freshness of the fish and the simple, gustatory bliss provided by their humble accompaniments.
Gulf Snapper
Pan Seared Scallops Romesco
Finally, order a mound of chocolate for dessert and be surprised by how much better it makes you feel than your boyfriend. (I’m surprised I just said that!)

Share that, and a bowl of crème brulee, with your surprisingly young-looking mother (insert whistle)
See, even the most promising dining experience can hold some surprises; you just have to find them. Go to Oystercatchers. Find your own surprises. Perhaps you’ll just be surprised by how accurate my review is…
 Oystercatchers on Urbanspoon