Restaurant Review: Local 360

I am not going to make a ton of friends by reviewing Local 360, because frankly, I have not enjoyed either of the meals I have consumed at this place. Local 360 is a relatively well known Seattle Restaurant for its farm to table attitude and its gluten free options. I feel like I should like it, for all that it represents and the hype that it generates. For heavens-sake up until mid 2014 a former Top Chef contestant ran the kitchen; Robin Leventhal. It wasn’t until July that Brian Cartenuto took over and I haven’t had a meal there since her departure.

My problem is that Local 360, with all its hype in the Seattle Food community, puts out bland food. Its not terrible food by any means, you can tell technique is there: its just almost decidedly under seasoned. Yes, 360 is serving almost entirely local produce and food. Yes, they offer the much loved “fancy foodie” tasting menu. Yes, you almost always need a reservation. But, that doesn’t mean it’s good. It just means its farm to table.

I have had two meals at 360, one breakfast, the other dinner. My dinner involved an piece of pork with under rendered fat. Now, I understand that pork is typically fatty; I cook a mean pork shoulder… long and slow. The fat should melt in your mouth, it should not be super chewy. While the sides to my pork were tasty, they suffered the typical lack of seasoning that I also experienced during my breakfast. I ordered a Farmer’s Breakfast with over easy eggs. The eggs were delicious, as would except local eggs to be. Here’s the thing though; I can cook myself a perfectly tasty local over easy egg and I do so on a regular basis. The biscuit on the other hand was dry and didn’t bring anything exciting to the plate. The potatoes had barely any seasoning and I felt myself loading on salt and pepper to make them more appealing. Alas they were slightly under-cooked as well, nothing could really save them.

 

Now the lastly, what really killed any desire of returning was the sort of service we received. I have experienced service like this in plenty of higher end restaurants but I am usually able to put my foot down with the waiter. The service was slow and the server seemed less then enthusiastic with us. They weren’t overly busy at either time and our table didn’t ask for much. They just seemed to have this really unpleasant air about them, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Was it that the restaurant “better than the rest” attitude has just started to wear on them? They did seem a tad overzealous about the origins of the food and less about the actually dishes. Though I often got the feeling that people that ate at 360 said they enjoyed their food just because they assumed they should. I mean its farm to table, sustainably conscious cooking, I should love it right? Only problem is, there are plenty farm to table and sustainably conscious restaurants in Seattle that don’t serve “just okay” food. A lot of restaurants in Seattle also serve local produce, meat and dairy but just don’t promote it all over their menus.

I am not an anti-farm to table foodie, I adore the idea, I really do. The problem is when restaurants think the products they get to make the food is all the matters. Which is weird right?  I mean of course that matters BUT you still need to cook it well and season it for it to be good. They stop making amazing food when they are more concerned with telling us where it comes from. I really like knowing where my food comes from, don’t get me wrong, but it could use more salt.

2.5knives

Restaurant Review: Brunch at Roux

When Roux opened up in my neighborhood I was elated to say the least. Fremont is getting some great new restaurants despite losing a few in the past year. Roux’s opening was followed by many in the Seattle Food Scene. The owner, Matt Lewis, was running a foodie pop up for years before opening Roux. This restaurant shows him planting some very important roots in the area. Originally, from New Orleans, it was no surprise the Lewis was opening a restaurant with a southern/creole based menu. Now, I am not talking about their main menu in this article, you’ll have to come back for that at a later date. This is about brunch, the serious social mealtime of the weekend.

Roux’s brunch was much needed in the area too, with the recent loss of Hunger, Fremont needed a semi-serious brunch stop, to take its place. Lewis delivers, with comforting food and exceptional service. Roux’s brunch menu offers some standards with southern twists. You have your basic plate of eggs, meat and toast with the addition of grits, aptly named “The Cure”.  You also have malted waffles, biscuits and gravy,  huevous rancheros, beignets, nuttella pancakes and a great benedict selection (and that is just naming a few).

My husband and I attended brunch at Roux and were greeted by a smiley hostess. She was nicely dressed for a brunch shift, which was a pleasant surprise. Roux’s interior is light, causal and somewhat playful during the daytime. We were seated near the bar, which has a wonderful chalkboard cocktail menu. The unique thing about this menu, is that all the recipes are featured as well, just adding to the whimsy. The bartender came over quickly to get our drink order. While I wish there was more juice or other options on the morning drink menu, I really did like some of their morning cocktail options. They were more creative with their brunch drinks then most. Offering twists on mimosas as well as on a Michelada.

I ordered beignets for the table, a country ham benedict for myself, and my husband ordered The Cure. The beignets came out quickly, delivered my Lewis himself greeting us with a “Good Morning”. The beignets were perfect, slightly tangy, custard-like, simply topped, well heaped with powder sugar. You get a generous helping of large beignets for a few dollars, if you felt like it, you could just order them for yourself. You would have a sweet and delicious breakfast, perfect for dunking in a cup of coffee.

Our main courses came shortly after we devoured the beignets. We both received the creole spiced home-fries with our plates, and they were absolutely scrumptious. Golden brown and heavily seasoned, which is so very refreshing. My biggest beef with home-fries is under-seasoned ones, often entirely bland with limp onions and peppers. These didn’t come intermixed with veggies, just pure potato goodness. My husbands plated came with a helping of grits, which I have to say, were some of the best grits I have ever had. Creamy and velvet, almost cheesy? Not sure, if Lewis puts cheese in his grits, or if he just obtained the perfect texture.

Now my benedict, I am a bit of a benedict lover, just so you know. It is my brunch dish of choice, I rarely order something else. My country ham benedict was tasty for sure, but in my opinion, suffered a minor flaw. Now, I am not upset that Lewis subbed cornbread for an english muffin. I was actually really happy with the addition of the cornbread, it added a nice textured contrast to the eggs without needing a knife to cut through it. It was light, not overly salty nor was it overly sweet. I have a feeling that cornbread would make any southern grandma happy. Once tiny issue, the small helping hollandaise on my plate.

Okay, so achieving perfect balance in a benedict is not easy, I am well aware of this fact. Here’s the thing though, this hollandaise was like a hug for my tongue. The Roux has a hollandaise that may just top my list. I wanted more and I felt like I was searching for it, praying for it to just appear. The eggs weren’t covered with it, it was more like they covered half an egg in ‘daise.

While, I am a picky benedict eater, I rather enjoyed my brunch at Roux. The experience was was refined yet, causal. The service and the atmosphere of Roux is going to make it one of the prime show-off brunch spots. The place you take the in-laws or your best girlfriend for her birthday, that kind of  brunch spot. Taking someone here will show you have discerning but whimsical taste. You should, by all means, brunch here and soon. Roux has a very good chance of becoming a reservation only brunch spot in the near future.

 4knives

Best Burger In Seattle – Part Three [Blue Moon Burgers]

Alicia! Where have you been?

I know internet, calm down. I have been busy! I was working on launching a new site for a nerdy blog that I co-founded. The site just went live a few days ago, so you can check it out here: thenerdemp.com.

Okay, shameless plug over, lets talk about burgers!!!

Blue Moon Burgers – You put what on that patty?

Entering either of the Blue Moon locations that I have visited hasn’t been anything special. Out of all of the burger joints that I have been to this one really flatlines in the atmosphere department. I don’t really need amazing atmosphere to eat a burger but I want a little bit of something. These establishments just kind of fall flat on the interior space, bland and boring. Though I would argue that the minute you sink your teeth into one of their burgers that all ceases to matter.

BlueMoonBurger

I have visited a Blue Moon Burger twice and I have ordered the same burger. I meant to try something else, honest, but that Hangover burger. Oh my god, the Hangover burger. I have very few salivary reactions when I reminisce about certain foods; this burger has made that list. This magical burger is pretty close to perfect for me. You get their patty which is juicy and fatty on their signature brioche bun. This patty is topped with their special sauce, a fried egg, swiss cheese, thick cut bacon and fries. I know, calm down, it will be alright. This burger doesn’t need anything else, heck it comes with the fries on it. Don’t you dare put ketchup on this baby, you’d ruin it.

Now here is where I deviate from my praise and speak of the downsides. I would like this burger to be cooked medium/medium well, that would greatly improve it. Both times I have had it, its been juicy, but juicy for a well done burger. The brioche bun is buttery and tasty, but I feel like with the weight and richness of the rest of the burger it could benefit from a heartier bun. Perhaps their ciabatta?

So far I have reviewed Red Mill, Blue Moon and Dicks. Thus far the Hangover burger at Blue Moon is topping the list for the best burger in Seattle. I still have time though, and many more burgers to try, before I finally name my best burger!

The Best Burgers In Seattle – Part One [Dick’s Drive In]

Something I learned pretty quickly when I first moved out to Seattle is that there is no shortage of burgers, good and bad. It seems like something that Seattleites secretly crave at all hours of the day and night. The lines outside of Dicks and the amount of burger shop chains out here should be proof enough of this theory. One of my pet projects, as long as I live here, is to try all the various burgers this city has to offer. I figured as long as I was doing this I should share my thoughts, as I quest for the best burgers in Seattle.

Dicks Drive In – A Seattle Staple 

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“My” Dicks Drive In – The First Dicks in the Wallingford Neighborhood

Plenty of people harp on Dicks, I honestly don’t know why. Dick’s is honest about what it is, more honest then most restaurants. It serves burgers, fries and shakes. That’s about it. There are no frills and no substitutions. Don’t even try to ask for a burger without ketchup and mustard, you’ll just hold up the line. There is always a line at Dicks, I don’t think I have walked straight up to a counter more then twice in the three years I have lived here.

You have your Special/Deluxe and your regular burger. There is a price difference and a totally different flavor profile to both. Want a completely no frills, fast, tasty burger? Get yourself a Dicks cheeseburger; a patty, cheese, bun, ketchup and mustard. The bun is steamed and squishy, the patty is local beef with that nice flattop flavor. Want a Seattle original? Then you must try the Special or the Deluxe. The only difference is the Deluxe has cheese and an extra patty.  The Deluxe is the burger for me half the time; two 1/8 pound patties, cheese, mayo, shredded lettuce and pickled relish all on that perfect steamed bun.

dicks-drive-in-1

The Amazing Deluxe Burger

The best thing about Dicks is that you get an all out Deluxe for $2.70 and a regular cheeseburger for $1.50. My husband and I frequent Dicks, visiting once a month often eating for a whooping total of $11.40 and we are very full at the end of it. We get fresh local cheeseburger on the cheap. The only thing we don’t really like about Dicks is the fries, they are tasty just too soggy and short for my tastes. I do highly suggest it to anyone who visits Seattle but with two important things to remember:

– You can’t sub anything on the menu, or ‘hold’ anything off your burger

– If you want ketchup for your fries you have to pay for it, 5 cents gets to a little tub of it.

Which to me is fair enough when their tasty burgers are so cheap! Better then McD’s or Wendy’s any day of the week, worth a try if you are in the market for a $2.00 burger.

Update: I will be reviewing all the burger joints I frequent and give my thoughts as I go. At the end I hope to name my “Best Burger”!

 

Originally Posted Feb 2nd 2014 0n aliciaeesh.wordpress.com

Morning Coffee – The Best Brew

Living in Seattle if you don’t like coffe you are a tad alienated from the population. There is coffee EVERYWHERE and I don’t just mean on street corner cafes. I don’t just mean the battle of the Tully’s, Starbucks, Seattle’s Best (which I guess is owned by Starbucks now), etc. I mean that I pass by a video rental place going to University District the serves coffee. I used to work at a desert shop during the evening that had a espresso machine, which I guess isn’t too odd. People sometimes came there just for my lattes Sunday mornings. I had a tendency to put almost an inch of caramel in the caramel lattes, what… your watching your waist? Whoops…

So while I am not a Barista in the truer sense of the term. I have met a lot of Seattle Barista’s that are cut throat, this is their career and they compete to be the best. I do have my favorite places to go get coffee and my favorite coffee suppliers and drinks. I also have perfected my favorite way to brew my own cup! Without further ado, let’s jump in:

1. Best Overall Coffe – Cafe Vita in Fremont, Seattle

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This a location of this coffee empire is really close to my newest apartment, so it is made all the better by the fact that I can walk there. They roast their own, in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. They only thing I don’t like about they, which really isn’t their fault at all, is that on weekends my neighborhood is packed with cars and people trying to get a cup. I guess that means other people like it just as much.

2. Best Place to get more with your Coffee – B&O Espresso  in Ballard, Seattle

Just go and get a Milky Way (Coffe, Ghiradelli cocoa, house made caramel & whipped cream) and a Ham & Gruyere crepe. Tell them Alicia sent you, tell them extra homemade whip = happiness. You’ll thank me.

3. Best Coffee Drink – The Latte @ Anchored Ship Coffee Bar in Ballard, Seattle

This one was hard, there are alot of places I love but I thought long and hard. What really sets this latte apart is that it doesn’t feel like it needs any sugar at all. Yes I add sugar to coffee but only if the brew is really harsh and overly bitter. They really know how to pull a shot here!

4. Best Coffee at Home – French Press using Cafe Vita’s BRAZIL RANCHO SAO BENEDITO blend

Alright, like I said, I am not an expert but here is how I brew my coffee at home… this works really well for me! I use a tiny little Bodum press and it works really well, I need to buy a bigger one, I  am starting to need more coffee in the morning. I use the word “need” loosely of course.

Also I adore these two pieces of equipment, I find them necessary to get the right cuppa. My Black and Decker Smart Grind and Programable Electric Kettle. The B&D Smart Grind take 3-4 presses to get the right coarse grind for me! Its pretty sweet. Two heaping tablespoons of beans is right per cup. The blend from Cafe Vita is floral and sweet, its great for that morning cup.

The B&D Programable Electric Kettle is also super awesome. Its programmed for things like coffee, a general herbal tea setting, boiling, etc. You can also pick the exact temperature  you want the water for super tea lovers that want that right brew on their leaves (like my husband!).

Coffee can be intimidating in Seattle, but don’t let it be! Stay away from the chains, welcome the tiny coffee houses and you will get some of the best coffee of your life in this town.

Originally posted on aliciaeesh.wordpress.com on Jan 28th 2014

The Best Burgers in Seattle – Part Two [Red Mill Burgers]

Okay, firstly my Dicks Drive In article in this run did bring some controversy. I find that to be pretty common when talking food in Seattle. People form pretty solid opinions on food and I don’t blame them! Food is a comfort, a necessity, a keeper of memories; its a lot of things. People in Seattle take this pretty seriously, which I like. I like the opinionated food lover, foodie if you will (though I kind of hate that word), that speaks their mind. If you don’t agree thats fine!

Just remember that this is my quest to find the best burgers in Seattle, with the distinction being that it is my quest. Fully influenced by my tastes, which believe me I know are not everyones! So without further ado…

Red Mill Burgers – That Place GQ Mentioned

red_mill_menu

that there is a menu

You have probably seen our next place on the travel channel or in a magazine. I knew about Red Mill way before I moved out here… way before. GQ even says this place has one of the 20 burgers you must try before you die. I am not sure I really agree with that statement, maybe I have yet to experienced that burger with them. But I will keep trying until I have that angels singing in the choir experience.

Red Mill is a little flat top burger joint thats name to fame is a mountain of precooked bacon that lies beyond the counter waiting for the next bacon burger to happen. The have as you can see many additional signs tacked on to their menu, as do most good burger joints. The only time in which this place doesn’t really give me that good old burger joint vibe is when I notice their memorabilia  area and when they were trying to win some silly hottness contest. I don’t need hot chicks to serve me burgers, I just need a good burger!

I digress, lets talk burger, since that is what we are here for. I often get a cheeseburger with bacon and pickles when I visit Red Mill. There cheeseburger is usually just cheese, mill sauce, and lettuce. Here is my problem with red mill, they seem to have a tasty patty but they tend to over cook it. When you have a patty as thick as theirs it could stand to have a little pink to improve flavor. This is something I have found others often complain about. I mean its good, the mill sauce is a great smoky addition to the flavor of the bacon and the meat. The bacon is often cooked perfectly, crispy and chewy all at the same time. But… something is missing, I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something is not quite there for me.

burger and onion rings at the Mill

burger and onion rings at the Mill

I will eat Red Mill, don’t get me wrong, sometimes I crave their mill sauce getting mixed up with that cheese. I hate there is something missing there for me, I really do. I want to have that awe inspiring experience that even Oprah has seem to have had with Red Mill. I really do, maybe my problem is my choice of burger here. They do have other options. Maybe thats my problem. Maybe I will update this article once I find the perfect burger at Red Mill. Maybe being told that it is supposed to be so freaking good by so many people has jaded me though. Maybe its good how it is; well done 1/4 patty, covered in cheese and mill sauce, topped with lettuce, pickles and bacon. It sounds good, when I am eating it, it tastes good. It is entirely possible that GQ has put too much pressure on this girl… I wish I had more to say about it. Just go read their article.

Image Credits: Burger and Onion Rings (Urbanspoon), Menu (http://www.dream-burger.com/)

Originally Posted on aliciaeesh.wordpress.com on Feb 2nd 2014

PO Dog – Ballard [A review]

Please go to Po Dog in Ballard if you get a chance, why? Well there are plenty of reasons, so let me name a few. Po Dog in Ballard has a stellar staff. They are fun and casual, they treat you like a family friend and are willing to chat. They are willing to change around toppings to make your perfect dog! The dogs are great too, so many fantastic options and they cook dogs like you should, a quick boil for a plump oversized beef dog that will make your mouth water. Steamed buns that are sort of brioche like hold up to their oversized dogs well.

Po Dog – Dub T Dog

Remember those options I stated? My favorite is the Texas dog with potato chips instead of onion straws. This dog is covered in crushed Ruffles, Tilamook cheddar and a smoky barbecue sauce. If you like onion straws then totally keep those on there. My other favorites are the Dub-T dog, the Chicago Dog and the Mac & Cheese dog. Their dog of the month option is also a favorite, they incorporate fun and fresh toppings with interesting themes.

The sides and drinks at Po Dog are also good. Sometimes I head over purely to get some of their shoestring french fries. Greasy but not too greasy. crispy yet slightly soggy, covered in a great seasoning, they give you a heaping amount in an order too. I just wish they did cheese fries and chili cheese fries. Then I would be there once a week… So maybe its good that chili cheese fries are not on the menu.

The decor is also fun, sort of gothic yet light hearted, black and white patterned wall paper and chair railed walls. Its little tables are cozy but the bar is my favorite place to sit when I am alone. A tiny little hole in the wall with a great staff, wonderful dogs and a endearing interior. Why wouldn’t you go?

Image Credits [ Yelp Seattle for the image of the Dub T, Image of the store: http://seattle.eater.com/archives/2012/03/16/laura-olson-says-ballard-po-dog-will-open-march-23.php ]

Originally posted on aliciaessh.wordpress.com on Feb 7th 2014