As tradition requires, here is a photo of the world-famous Winlock Egg, all done-up for Christmas (hard to spot the lighted deer and such, but they are there), photographed from the speeding Amtrak train.
I can say that things are swell in the state of Washington, what with Marriage Equality and legalized spliff-smoking just on the horizon. There was a hint of jonquil in the air, so to speak, just about everywhere I ventured, and I read in the local paper that the Seattle Baptist Church was already booked for same-sex weddings, starting about this upcoming Saturday. That’s not the Baptists they have in Missouri, methinks.
All the press around the new patisserie, Crumble and Flake is true: C&F have perhaps the best pastries I’ve had anywhere. If you are lucky enough to be in line when it opens (7AM), you might be lucky enough to buy a croissant and enjoy it with their perfect coffee. (The apocryphal story is that they “auditioned” virtually every coffee in town before they settled on one that the baker thought worked well with his food. That’s obsession.) The joint closes when they sell out and there is no more for the day; this usually happens by about 10 AM; Fridays they sell out earlier because workers are scooping up the goods to take to the office; they actually limit the number that they will sell to any one customer, just to give the others in line a chance. If you go to Seattle or are lucky enough to live there, make this an early-morning destination. It’s worth the effort.
In a similar vein, The Wandering Goose is a southern-style bakery/cafe that recently opened on a hilltop with an impressive view of the Space Needle down the side street. So imagine light-as-air biscuits as interpreted by a southern pastry chef, and you get pretty close to what is featured there (besides the old-fashioned layer cakes, hand-pies, cookies, and bunt-cakes). If you had a southern grandmother (I did not), this might be what she baked for you. It’s all delicious and sweet in a way that doesn’t give you a sugar rush. I enjoyed grits for the first time. (What I mean is, I never really enjoyed them before.) Advice: try the savory food, too. At some point in the future, the chef is planning on having classes, and I would go back to learn from her.
Next door to The Goose is another new place worth a look, Rione XIII. Ethan Stowell is something of a local legend, who really has earned his praise. I’ve raved about Anchovies and Olives for a few years, and now he has a full-on Italian place running. What is unusual about his new venture is that he is focused on Rome, a cuisine that is not often featured. As with all of his restaurants, the food is exceptional and the service is professional. Ethan Stowell’s New Italian Kitchen is out (finally) that you should check out. I bought it about a month before heading up to Seattle, it’s wonderful and would make a good gift for the Chef in your life.
The bar Canon is also worth a trip, if you enjoy a tipple now and then. They have perhaps the most extensive backbar I’ve seen yet; from 100+ year old Scotch, to locally distilled small-batch gins, they’ve got it all. This is not the place to see college kids gone wild pound beer and Red Bull-vodka drinks, it’s pretty much self-sorted to grown-ups only. The bar menu could compose your dinner, too, they’ve paid a lot of attention to the details. My favorite bit of trivia: the founder of the place stained all the wood in the bar with cases and cases of Angostura Bitters. You can smell it if you think about it.
And on a similar note, the bar Artusi might be the only place that I have ever been where the head chef has designed the cocktails. They use unusual ingredients and spices in their signature drinks, flavor combos that you might only think about for food are served in their drinks. For instance, there is something that they call Marinetti’s Automobile: Bulleit Rye, Carpano Antica, Liquore Strega, fig vinegar, Amarena Cherry & Cayenne. A real cherry preserve that has been coated with cayenne in a cocktail that includes fig vinegar? Yup. And it is delicious.
Anytime I can return from someplace and make a few recommendations, I consider the trip a success. I rarely make three; I don’t think I’ve ever made five. Seattle is not everyone’s cup of tea, the weather is fickle, the hills are steep, the traffic is insane (but they have excellent public transportation), and I would move there in a heartbeat if I could.