Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hot Cakes, Ballard WA

I stopped by opening week having a few hours to kill before dinner on Capitol Hill.  I know that Hot Cakes has had a presence at a few markets in Seattle, but have never had the opportunity to sample their sweet offerings.

First off, I have to admit to being an ultimate consumer of purveyors of sweets.  I love sweets and in my next lifetime I would like to be a pastry chef.

Hot Cakes in Ballard is a gem.  My family and I enjoyed a few minutes sitting, watching and enjoying everything this sweet spot had to offer.

The space is rustic and offers a few tables and chairs to provide you with instant gratification of their delicious treats.

As I ate, I savored the flavors and textures worthy of the "Oh Wow!" stamp.  I would expect nothing less from Autumn Martin, an accomplished pastry chef and chocolatier extrodinare.

Anything you order is going to be fantastic.  I especially enjoyed my chocolate chip cookie (their cookies just came out of the oven at four in the afternoon) and a sip of my son's chocolate milkshake.  My husband enjoyed their signature molten chocolate cake, rich with a delicious taste of really good chocolate.  We later enjoyed a cinamon cardamom hand held pie (fantastic).

If you're looking for something sweet, head to Hot Cakes.

Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dining Out: Bisato, Seattle WA (Belltown)

from bisato facebook page

On 1st Ave in Belltown where the former Lampreia restaurant once stood now sits Bisato.  Led by Chef Scott Carsberg, a James Beard recipient, the space has transformed into an open, 21 and over bar that offers a bistro type setting with high-end fine dining eats.

Bisato serves Ventian style small plate dishes.  You won’t find your traditional big plate pasta, meatballs or pizza here.  

Note: I did not take pictures.  On their website there are fantastic photos of the dishes that really do justice to their food!  I've shared a few here.
l-r: naomi, myrissa, chef scott, manh
outside bisato restaurant
My husband and I dined as guests of some very dear friends of ours (and fellow foodies) Manh and Naoimi.  We arrived and were not surprised that they were chatting it up with Chef Scott.  We started with cocktails and after a few minutes I felt myself starting to unwind (is that what alcohol does to a person) and studying the menu.

The menu at Bisto includes short and descriptive offerings.  What‘s interesting about the rotating menu is what you read is what you get.  Chef is a firm believer at keeping his dishes simple and limiting ingredients to only few to really help his diners saver the flavors.  Too much could get lost on the palate.  With 20+ offerings on the menu I was a bit overwhelmed, however my host informed me that dishes are small, some eaten in a few bites, so order heavily.  Taking their cue, we ordered "heavily" and we all shared around the table.
from bisato facebook page

My eyes were impressed.   Rarely have I seen food so artfully displayed.  Dish after dish was such eye candy.  But the most exciting part was actually eating these culinary masterpieces.  One after another we were entertained in so many ways that made the dining experience amazing.  Just about all five of my senses enjoyed the dinner at Bisato.

Bisato is a restaurant where you’ll want to sit, relax and enjoy the menu for all it has to offer.  A seat at the counter will treat you to a view where all of the culinary magic takes place. Take time to indulge all of your senses and you’ll find your meal at Bisato well worth your time and money.
from bisato website

What we enjoyed:
morel panna cotta with warm violet asparagus
spring artichoke soup with condiments
blini of red beet with gravlax salmon and crème fraiche
variolo of porcini and egg with butter sauce
warm spaghetti with eggplant
cow's milk gnocchi with ramp butter and parmesan
sweet corn soup, Copper River sockeye salmon, herbs
risotto of strawberry

braised short rib in barolo wine
orange confit with chocolate caramel mousse (You HAVE to order this, absolutely fabulous)
milk chocolate parfait
lemon tart

Bisato on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dining Out: Revel, Seattle WA (Fremont)

I can only vouch for their brunch - which I've enjoyed several times.

Revel is led by husband and wife duo Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi.  I first learned of them and their sister restaurant Joule on the Food Network's Iron Chef America where they battled Iron Chef Garces.

Located in Fremont where parking is tough but so worth the effort to have a delicious meal lies a small entrace to Revel (with their neighboring bar right next door, Quoin).  Tables are first come, first served but reservations are accepted for parties of 6 or more.  There is outdoor seating with comfortable heat lamps to counteract the tempermental Seattle weather.

Tip:  Go right when they open or before they close, or you'll wait.

The space is long, with a visible open kitchen and I just love the seating available right up at the counter (on the other side of the counter is the kitchen).  Every time I've been, it's been busy.  Energy is high, volume is loud and the space is inviting.

The brunch menu is simple, two selections for each type of dish that is offered.  Chef Rachel and Chef Seif have created a brunch menu bursting with asian flavors yet blend with current world cuisine.  Your palate will be excited with the tastes of sweet, savory, tangy, spicy and down-right delicious.

My son enjoyed the two eggs, house bacon, scallion potato hash and toast and said the bacon was "amazing".

On the lighter side the kaffir lime yogurt, spicy mango, black rice puff and the meyer lemon, rhubarb, candied almond porridge are FANTASTIC.

For a hearty appetite may I recommend the short rib rice bowl, fried egg, chili chimichurri, arugula or the kalbi burger, bacon, shallot pickle.  Both just bursting with savory flavors.

If you like Asian flavors, you'll love dining at Revel.

Revel on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dining Out: The NoMad, New York, NY

I heard of this restaurant via twitter by Chef Scott Conant and after speaking to him and his assistant, Irene about this newly opened dining establishment, I decided to try The NoMad with Miranda (my NYC foodie partner). Special thanks to Irene who hooked us up with reservations.  The NoMad is currently one of NYC hottest new restaurants and available tables can be scarce.

The NoMad restaurant lies within The NoMad hotel by the Flatiron neighborhood.  This fully restored turn of the century building blends old world with present NYC.  It's easy to access and just down the street from my favorites (Eataly, Shake Shack).

At the culinary helm is Chef Daniel Humm.  The bar for this meal was high, being that I've experienced dinner at his other restaurant, Eleven Madison Park.  General Manager for The NoMad restaurant is Jeffrey Tascarella who has held several esteemed posts in the culinary world.  Most recently he launched the very successful Scarpetta restaurants.

Miranda and I started our evening in the bar.  It's way in the back, and is dimly lit.  There is an adjacent library seating area which was packed and very lively.  We opted for the radishes dipped in butter and sea salt, which surprisingly worked really well.  After a few minutes, we were escorted to our table.

We sat in the darker of the dining areas.  I would describe it as "rich"; rich in colors, the furniture and the décor.  The ambiance was bold and offered me a sense of "old world dining".

There is a 7 course tasting menu, but we decided to order a la carte,  We were sure to order what was suggested to us by Irene (Fruits de Mer and Milk & Honey).  Every dish was beautifully plated and the seafood was fresh - even by my Seattle standards.

What We Ordered From The Menu:
Radishes | butter-dipped with fleur de sel
Fruits De Mer | seafood tower
Foie Gras | torchon with tete de cochon, radishes & nasturtium
Egg | poached with asparagus, quinoa & parmesan
Bone Marrow | gratinee with parsely, shallots & anchovy
Suckling Pig | confit with dried apricots, onions & wild greens
Milk & Honey | shortbread, brittle & ice cream
Peanut Butter | palette with milk chocolate and popcorn

What stood out was the hot bread loaf (that's a meal in itself), the metal straw in my beverage and the fabulous Milk & Honey dessert.

Service was incredible, and it seems that our dishes were cleared almost immediately, our water glasses never half full, and our table attended to with the changing of the plates and silverware.  I would not have expected any less with Mr. Tascarella overseeing this great restaurant.
All in all, a meal you don't want to miss when you're in NYC.

The NoMad on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 15, 2012

Read My Mind: Tom Douglas of Tom Douglas Restaurants


Among the renowned chefs that make up the Macy’s Culinary Council, there sits a Seattle Chef.  Launching the Macy’s Great American Chefs Tour was Tom Douglas who offered his culinary presence at the Macy’s in downtown Seattle.

The evening opened with Devin Alexander who shared her recipe for a "healthier" McDonald's Big Mac. 

Then Chef Tom took to the kitchen.  The cooking demonstration was – well, let’s just say that Chef Douglas won’t be hosting his own TV show on the Food Network anytime soon.  I was a little disappointed at the lack of actual cooking (demonstration) – but pleasantly surprised at how much I learned about him.  He talked about his restaurant empire, his childhood food memories, winning the James Beard award and his family.

We sampled pre-made duck spring rolls in a sweet chili sauce and seared duck breast with what seemed like the same sauce.  Although he cut up a whole duck, there wasn’t much instruction or demonstration on the actual process, rather Chef Douglas engaging in polite conversation while doing his thing.

There were plenty of copies of his new book for purchase: I Love Crabcakes.  He was gracious enough to sign books and pose for pictures.  We also left with recipes of everything we sampled.

Chef Douglas has made his mark as a successful restaurateur.  I especially enjoy Lola, where I love their brunch menu and have fond memories of nighttime meals and happy hours when I worked in Seattle.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dining Out: The Willows Inn, Lummi Island WA

The New York Times published a list of restaurants worth a plane ride.  Lucky for me one was just a drive and ferry ride away. On a beautiful summer day my husband and I headed to Willows Inn on Lummi Island.

Lummi Island is small, and will take about about 8 minutes to drive around.  If you're interested in getting away from it all and relaxing, come to Lummi Island.  There's really not a whole lot to do here.

Willows Inn also offers accomodations on and off site.  Very convenient if you're looking to drink and crawl back to your room.  We did stay, but on future visits we will drive back home.

Chef Blane Wetzel is a culinary genius and at the age of 25 (maybe he's 26 now), he is definately going places!  Most, if not all of their produce is grown in their nearby farm, Nettles Farm.  While waiting for dinner, we happened to see Chef Blane quickly walking from the road to the kitchen with a basket full of (what I assumed) freshly picked veggies for the evening's meal.

There is a no-host cocktail offering prior to dinner service which is in the library/lobby.  The tiny table/bar serves a variety of libations which will burn a hole in your wallet.
Right before dinner a hostess will seat you.  The dining room has been tastefully decorated and on a nice summer night patio seating is available.  The restaurant offers a single seating each evening and only a prix fixe menu. Dinner service takes about 3 hours - so allow yourself plenty of time. 

We were offered champagne and then asked about our food allergies and preferences.  The prix fixe menu is not offered every day and is based on what's available throughout the season. There is also a wine or juice pairing that is not included in the price of dinner.  My husband chose the wine and I the juice.

Highlights Of Our Meal:
Juice paring was delicious but the carrot juice was exceptional.  I never sing praises of vegetable juice but this carrot juice was d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s! Our amuse-bouche was plentiful and a basket full of produce and edible dirt was amazing.  Chef Blane was in and out of the kitchen, talking with guests and helping with serving these wonderful dishes.  Kale chips dotted with a truffle paste was fantastic.  My entree of salmon and my husband's roasted pork was outstanding.  I enjoy sweets and look forward to dessert, however I was so full that the small offering of fresh fruits and sorbet was just enough sweetness to complete our meal.

This restaurant is exceptional.  One of the best in the pacific northwest.  I would recommend this restaurant with two thumbs up.

The Willows Inn on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 11, 2012

Read My Mind: Scott Conant Management Hospitality, New York NY

from SCM website

There are few times when we remember a GREAT dining experience.  It may have been the ambiance that takes your breath away.  Or perhaps the stellar service that made you tip more than 20%.  For many, a great dining experience encompasses the food eaten and savored.  How incredible would be it to have it all.

For myself, I had the honor of "having it all".

Chef Scott Conant is the culinary brains behind Scarpetta restaurants (locations in NYC, Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, Miami & Toronto) and has mastered Italian cuisine.  Chef Scott is also featured on the Food Network as a judge on the show Chopped, host of 24 Hour Restaurant Battle and several appearances on The Best Thing I’ve Ever Ate and The Best Thing I’ve Ever Made.

On a busy SoHo street in NYC, up above the hustle and bustle lies Scott Conant Management Hospitality (SCM).  Chef Scott's private culinary suite serves as his corporate headquarters, test kitchen and production studio.

SCM  recently hosted a private dinner and I happen to land a seat at the long table for 30 lucky diners.  Dining with me was Miranda Xsavier, East Coast Correspondent for

As we exited the elevator and upon entering the suite, we were greeted by Chef’s staff with a glass of Prosecco and asked to mingle amongst the other guests.  Waiters walked around offering canapés to tease our palate.  As I glanced at the space, I immediately see the long table nicely decorated, the open kitchen and then I spot the man of the evening, Chef Scott.

The art of culinary seduction, to me is just as exciting as eating the meal itself.  Starting from the ambiance, the literary description of the menu, to the plate that appears before you – those are the elements that lead up to the moment when the fork reaches your lips.  However, the dining experience at SCM added an element that just took dining to a whole new level – the ability to see and interact with Chef Scott in his kitchen.

Prior to each course, Chef explained in detail what we were about to eat.  Ingredients, preparation and a little background and history of each dish added to the excitement.  Dinner was fabulous and in between courses I sat up and walked over to the kitchen, listening to Chef Scott and watching him and his team work their magic. The intent on their faces as they prepared and plated our meal was a sight to see. Service was impeccable, and our wine glasses always filled.  Our every culinary need was met…and met well.

I left SCM heavily inebriated but with an incredible smile on my face.  The dinner was worthy of my plane ride from Seattle and the memories of the evening are forever embedded on my palate.

Our Meal At SCM Culinary Suite:

Farmer’s Market Salad, truffle pecorino & hazelnuts | Villa Sparina – Gavi di Gavi 2010 – Piemonte
Risotto, castelmagno cheese, porcini & sausage ragu | J. Hoffstatter – Lagrein 2010 – Alto Adige
Roasted Guinea Hen, smoked almond, brown butter brodetto & preserved lemon |Casa E. Mirafiore – Barolo 2007 – Piemonte

Balsamic Panna Cotta, farmer’s market strawberries, sesame & lemon verbena | La Roncaia – Ramandolo 2006 – Colli Orientali del Fruili

Petit Fours & Assorted Cookies | Illy Espresso & Tea