Monday, February 24, 2014

where to eat & drink: awp seattle 2014

cheers!  don't forget to nourish yourself at awp!

seattle is one of the great food cities in america.  i'm very partial to the northwest palate--the fish, the berries, the mushrooms.  

so if you're into food, awp this year is gonna rock you.

i've included some things for those on the vending machine budget (adjuncts, grad students, folks with poetry degrees and 200 k in student loan debt) and some things for those of you with a fancy schmancy per diem from your department or maybe a little trust fund.  

or maybe you're like me and you'll eat a great meal instead of paying your light bill.


shannon borg doing her homework so you don't have to.

since i no longer live in seattle (TRAGICALLY!), i only get to eat there a couple of times a year.  i enlisted two fabulous foodie friends to add to my list of favorites: food writer and poet shannon borg, and cook, foodie, artist, & nerd john seuferling.  

shannon is poet, wine critic, and food writer. she has a ph.d from houston in poetry, and a new book on bio-dynamic wines: green vine:  a guide to west coast sustainable, orgainic, bio-dynamic wines.  i'd start with shannon's website to get a jump on seattle souvenirs.  she's published some fantanstic seattle-centric books--i'd recommend every one of them.  

and i'd do whatever shannon says.

cooking in seattle:  cucumber soup topped with dungeness crab salad.  sustainable fish recipe from good fish.

(also, shannon was one of my favorite guest bloggers ever here on GITP.)


1) the first thing shannon, john, and i agree on immediately is the walrus and the carpenter in ballard (ballard is the place for great restaurants in seattle these days. the james beard awards committee must be camping out there.)  i celebrated my 21st wedding anniversary there a few years ago.  shannon says: "go early.  get there by 5 and sit at the bar."  


i think if i could pick only one place to go whilst in seattle, it would be the walrus and the carpenter.

2) joule in wallingford for korean fusion.  this place has some of the most interesting food in seattle.  tourism bonus (make that bonii):  you can walk a few steps to molly moon's ice cream for dessert, stop in at archie mcphee's for souvenirs for kids or the emotionally stunted loved ones in your life, then stop by the fremont troll for a photo op.  i never, ever go to seattle with out saying 'hi' to the troll.  it's bad luck. you have to go give him his due.

3) if you're on the vending machine budget, you can do all of the above listed, but substitute joule with dick's drive in.  this place is iconic.  cheap as dirt, but they don't treat their employees like dirt, in fact, they contribute to the education funds of their employees.  their fries are the best--fresh, hand-cut potatoes, and never-frozen beef patties & "hand whipped milk shakes made with real table milk."  we've had many a discussion about the epithet "table milk." dick's has a tiny menu, so it's not overwhelming, and meals are served in card board boxes. you get a full meal, including a chocolate shake made with real table milk, for under five bucks.  

souvenir alert:  a blue & orange  t-shirt from dicks is great for a teen or a 35 year-old grad student.  dick's is open until 2 a.m. and you can also check out the capitol hill location if you're out on the town for a reading, dancing, or bar hopping.

cooking in seattle:  copper river salmon.

4) tamarind tree. provincial vietnamese food in the international district (known as the i.d. to locals). tamarind tree is really special.  unlike most i.d. restaurants, the atmosphere is terrific, but you MUST sit on the patio by the waterfall cut into the side of the hill.  you'll be warm--they provide throws and heaters.  so MAKE SURE you sit outside.  there's something about the sensorial juxtapositions of the seattle chill & the spicy food, the drizzle and cloud cover while wrapped in a throw next to the table heaters, the beautiful restaurant in the ugly strip mall,etc.  tamarind tree has lovely, lovely service, unique flavors, and water fall music that makes the whole dining experience greater than the sum of it's parts.   this sensorial juxtaposition is also something i love about vietnamese food: the sweet and the spicy, the hot and cold foods together in one dish, the cooked and the raw, if you will.  tamarind tree's menu is "provincial vietnamese," and is different from any pho joint or banh mi shop (both of which i love, but this is not what you'll be getting at tamarind tree). i dream about their butterflied prawns on grilled sugar cane.  

tamarind tree is very reasonably priced.  you could skip two vending machine meals and eat at tamarind tree.  it's about a 15 minute walk from downtown, and you can do a little tourism on your way to dinner.  uwajimaya is one of my all-time favorite markets in the world, and i usually get my kids' souvenirs in their gift section.  

another i.d. possibility is to find a place that serves hand-shaved noodles.  restaurants abound in the i.d., and they're mostly on the inexpensive side. lots of good and lots of bad food there.  i don't have the inside scoop, so maybe some seattle-ites will chime in here.  

tip:  never eat at a corner restaurant or a really big restaurant with a buffet in the i.d..  those are two sure signs of a tourist trap.

5)  the pink door.  shannon says: I still love the pasta at the Pink Door. Jazz almost every night. Sit in the bar area And for a fun and cheap glass of wine, go to The White Horse, no website, no facebook page - no sign! Just a White Horse, hanging in Post Alley, a few doors down from Kells.

you're also close to pike place market, which is one of those tourist places that you might think is just for tourists, but you'd be wrong.  i can spend days wandering the bowels of pike place market--the curio shops, the vintage places, the hand made, the locavore, the bizarre, places you can't believe still exist.

6) SUSHI WHORE!  so mashiko is seattle's first fully sustainable sushi bar.  i gave up sushi because of the sustainability issue about five years ago, so this place is a god-send.  the sushi whore is a genius.  sustainable sushi takes some getting used to.  you can't eat the big, high fat fish that give sushi it's transcendent mouth feel and carries so much flavor.  sustainable sushi has a leaner, more mineral-y flavor.  almost oyster-like.  the dishes here are innovative and work with the fish in a different way.  i still crave the bay shrimp and shiso salad i had years ago.  the after taste lingers.

bonus:  mashiko is in west seattle.  a walk on alki beach to view the seattle skyline is a beautiful thing. a drive around west seattle gives you great views, and you might catch some sea otters eating their own dinner, too.  easy street records is a block from mashiko if you want to bring some vinyl home to your beloved(s).  or just chat with the employees.  last time i was there, i got a great list of doom metal to check out, and you can put on a pair of head phones and listen to a few tracks while waiting for your table.

if you're in love with an activist foodie, good fish: sustainable seafood recipes from the pacific northwest would be a great seattle souvenir.  the recipes for scallop carpaccio and scallops with carrot puree are two of my favorites.

7)  lark is a beautiful (and pricey) locavore restaurant on capitol hill.  artisinal, foraged, impeccably sourced--everything you'd expect from a great seattle restaurant.  great place for an intimate meal--slower, luxurious, quiet enough for an in-depth conversation. 

8) ivar's:  like the troll, we try to always get our fish n' chips fix at ivar's whenever in seattle.  living in the desert, we never, ever get enough fish.  i like their lake union location--sitting on the deck watching the boats, if weather permits.  the cup hot of clam juice for a quarter will warm your chilled bones.  i've only eaten at the full-service restaurant once, and i would recommend sticking to the walk-up for a greasy bag of fish and chips doused in malt vinegar.  

in case you didn't figure it out, ivar's is a great choice for those of us on the vending machine budget.

9) i don't even remember the food here, but one time my family doctor prescribed a saturday morning ferry ride and breakfast at the streamliner diner on bainbridge island.  the ferry's downtown, and while the food won't be james beard quality, it will be good and comforting, and the ferry ride is stunning.  

10) there's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dining in seattle, so i'll just make number ten my wrap-up of recommendations from shannon and john, mostly places i haven't been yet, but these two have impeccable taste.  there's no way they'll steer you wrong.  i'll start with shannon's recommendations for wine and coffee bars, since that's her area of expertise:  

Check out Vif Coffee and Wine Bar - they carry grower champagnes, natural and biodynamic wines. & cafe presse:  your french bar on capitol hill: On Capitol Hill, I like Café Presse - great food!

john's wisdom: 

Not all of these are new but certainly worth a look and a taste. These run the gambit of fancy, cheap, casual not cheap. Revel Ba Bar Sitka and Spruce Meanders IL Corvo Burgundian The Walrus and the Carpenter Joule The Whale Wins Little Uncle Staple and Fancy Radiator Whiskey Essex Bakery Nouveau Delancey Alterra Mamnoon Thai Curry Simple

p.s from shannon, if you want to spend time in bars:

You guys will be downtown, so you could also hit Thierry Rautureau's new place Loulay, which looks great, and I always trust Thierry's instincts, although I haven't been there yet. For bars, don't miss the icons: ZigZag, where Murray Stenson used to work (google him!) and now has gone back to his roots, I believe, at Il Bistro, right under the Pike Place Market sign - where he taught me (and many others) everything we know about whisky ('m talkin' 1992 here). Across the street in Pike Place is Can Can, which has a dark bar where you can look up through the sidewalk - those little purple glass squares of light above you as the burlesque girls and boys do their gorgeous thing! Old schoolin' it here. Wish I was there - hopefully I can breeze through!

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