Dining Out For Life

April 15, 2007

Eating out is inherently self-indulgent, so it’s a great thing when doing so can also help a good cause. Thursday, April 26th, restaurants around the country are donating a portion of their proceeds to fight AIDS.

So build up an appetite – on next Thursday every bite you take will help save lives.

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We’ve just started covering two more very important cities – or depending on how you look at it, about a hundred new cities.

Urbanspoon Bay Area – from Marin in the North to San Jose in the South, Oakland in the East to San Francisco in the West, with a combined total of 13,528 restaurants.

Urbanspoon Los Angeles – including a swath of other cities stretching from San Fernando to Long Beach, with 18,833 restaurants.

25 Spoons Contest

March 1, 2007

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As you may know, I always kick myself for missing the bi-annual “Twenty-Five for 25” promotion. Not so this time! Starting today, for the month of March you can get a relatively inexpensive three-course meal at some great restaurants around town.

To celebrate this festival of prix-fixe bargain-hunting, we decided to put on a contest. Basically, whoever can cram in the most “Twenty-Five for 25” restaurants in the month of March wins. And we’ve got prizes that will bring joy to anyone who would bother to participate in this contest. Dinner for two on us, you choose where.

Read more about the contest – on your marks, get set, EAT!

Gaudí

February 23, 2007

Gaud� on UrbanspoonLast week my friend John introduced me to Gaudí, a new Spanish restaurant in town that’s just opened in Bryant. Definitely worth a visit!

The restaurant is run by Jo and Joan Luna, veteran restauranteurs from Barcelona (so “Joan” is pronounced “zho-AHN” like Joan Miro, not Joan Rivers). They moved to Seattle a few years ago and have decided to recreate their homey little cafe here for us. They’ve only been up and running for a few weeks. The service was very friendly but the pacing was a little off, and it looks like they’re still moving in. Those little nitpicks aside, it’s clear they made sure everything was working right in the kitchen (where it counts) before opening.

We started with tapas. First up were garlic shrimp and Spanish tortilla. The shrimp were merely good, but the tortilla was amazing. Spanish tortilla has absolutely nothing in common with Doritos. It’s basically a glorious potato omelette, served in this case with red peppers and greens and a delicious aioli. Incidentally, Joan claims that the aioli (ai = garlic, oli = olive oil) actually originated in Catalunya. From what I tasted, that sounds credible to me!

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Next came some skewered chorizo. Oh ho good. I’m not usually into sausage, but this stuff would make a believer out of committed vegan. Rich, spicy, slightly crispy but tender. We ordered a second helping. Then a plate of white anchovies – excellent.

Chorizo

For the main course we had ling cod with a romesco sauce (indisputably Catalunyan) and the wild boar. The cod was the one disappointment of the meal. It tasted a little undercooked, and set next to all of these other strong and wonderful flavors it was too mild to hold its own. The romesco was good, but served cold it was robbed of some of its flavor.

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The wild boar, however, was splendid. It was sort of like a boar pot roast, served in a little miniature cast iron casserole, and by the time we were done we’d scraped the metal clean.

Wild boar

We could have stopped at this point, but the desserts looked tempting, so we ended the meal with a crema catalana and carajillos – rum-spiked coffee. All in all, an excellent and much enjoyed meal.

Joan with Paella

Joan with paella (we’ll have to try it next time)

Quiz Night

February 10, 2007

I’m usually not much of a bar guy, but I’m a total sucker for a trivia contest. Last week a group of us went to the Kangaroo and Kiwi Pub for the trivia, and lost. That colors my opinion of the place. A perfect trivia contest has a nice blend of categories: current events, history, sports, literature, geography, science, movies and pop culture, etc. Bad trivia is when the questions are too concentrated on one topic, or just too trivial. By this standard, the K & K gets a C.

Anyway, I was going to write a nice post about how hard it is to find quiz nights, since as of last Wednesday there was no good resource for finding them. But all that has changed. The Seattle Times scooped my post, and solved the problem. It would still be great if someone would actually rate the best and the worst quiz nights, but at least now you can see when and where to find them.

Le P…

February 8, 2007

Two French bistros, a few blocks apart, worlds different.

Le Pichet on Urbanspoon Le P'tit Bistro on Urbanspoon

Le Pichet looks exactly like we dream a French bistro should – charming setting, adorable little pitchers of wine, a chalkboard. Le P’tit Bistro, on the other hand, is what you really get in France. It’s not a precious, pretty, perfect kind of place. It’s small, simple, a little sparse. It feels like someone forgot to tell them that they’re in Belltown. The food is the kind of thing you’d find in a hole in the wall in France, too. Delicious dressings and sauces, but then everything gets a little pile of canned corn and sliced tomatoes.

I’m not sure which of the two I like better, but by chance I got to eat at both of them in the past week.

We had a “business” lunch at Le Pichet with Anna from Citysearch. I had the (French) onion soup, Anna had a salad with quail and avocados, and Adam had a salad with eggs and a hard boiled egg. It looked more interesting than it sounds. My soup was good and solid, but on scale of French onion soup it fell a little short. The toast was a little insubstantial, the broth not quite salty enough, the onions not quite carmelized enough, and the cheese not quite rich enough. Good not great. The quail, on the other hand, was great. I didn’t try Adam’s food.

Onion soup

My soup

Quail salad

Anna’s quail

Egg salad

Adam’s apple (and egg) salad


We went to Le P’tit Bistro for dinner. We started with chevre chaud – simple but tasty – and mussels. I had the duck in wonderful a green peppercorn sauce, with yams and apples. And more canned corn and tomatoes, of course, which doesn’t do much for me. The duck was succulent, the sauce wonderful. The apples were good but the yams undercooked.After we’d ordered, my wife noticed there was a whole side of the menu devoted to crepes, savory and sweet. This seems like the kind of place that would do crepes right. Worth a trip back to find out.

Chevre chaud

Chevre chaud

Mussels

The mussels

The duck

The duck

Monsoon

February 6, 2007

It’s nice to walk away from a meal with unqualified happiness. We went to Monsoon the other night. Wow, what fun.

Two pieces of advice. First, order family-style. There are just too many flavors worth trying.

Second, order the catfish claypot. The thick gooey sauce that’s left over in the pot when you’ve eaten every scrap of solid food is so good you will burn your fingers scraping it out. On a table heaping with wonderful food, this was the standout.

We also had the dungeness crab and shrimp spring rolls (delicious), the drunken chicken (ditto), scallops (good), a salad with palmellos and candied walnuts in sesame oil (yum), snap peas with oyster mushrooms (crisp and tasty) and tofu with shiitake mushrooms (tofu ho hum, sauce exceptional). Incidentally, shiitakes are a particularly mushroom. And cultivators simulate thunder and lightning to make them grow properly.

Sadly my camera was at home collecting dust. Fortunately our friends had a camera phone. A different style of food photography – these shots look like they were taken through the warm, happy buzz of great food and wine.

Monsoon catfish claypot

That’s the catfish there on the left side of my plate.

Dungeness crab and shrimp spring rolls

Fantastic spring rolls – they tasted better than this looks.

Palmello salad

A tasty salad.

Monsoon on Urbanspoon