Thursday, January 21, 2016

Eden Hill

The space that Eden Hill occupies, as seen many restaurant come and go.  As this is my neighborhood, I am sad to see a restaurant close down.  I do have to admit as sad as I am see to see a restaurant to close down, there is a bit of excitement to see what might open next. Hoping this might be the one that will make it.  After my recent visit, I think Eden Hill might just be here to stay.

The space is small, just a handful of tables and a bar.  The menu too is small, but boasts some pretty amazing selections.  The plates are meant to be shared, and feasibly could order every item on the menu especially if you have a group of four or more.  We opted for four plates, and this was a good amount for two people.  We felt satisfied, but not so full you could not move.  Each dish we had was executed perfectly. When you order small plates like this there seems to be one that you thought was done very well, and is the memorable dish of the night.  All of these dishes were delicious and memorable. 

The menu changes daily based on locally sourced ingredients.  The menu is a bit on the cutting edge.  You don’t see a lot of menus in Seattle with “sweetbreads” and “crispy pig head”.  You will also find “normal” dishes on the menu as well.

This night we opted for a little normal.  I have never had sweetbreads before.  Since this was my first visited, I thought safe was the best route.

Duo Oysters – 1 oyster was topped with beet kvass bubbles and the other oyster was smoked and was served with compressed cucumber noodles.  I preferred the smoked oyster.  The smokiness lingered in your mouth.  It was so good.

Cauliflower “Chilaquiles” – who new cauliflower could taste soo good.  If this is on the menu. I highly recommend you order.  Such delicious flavors

Lummi Island Salmon – the salmon was layered with a salsa verde gelee, caper, red onions, and crème fraiche, and white asparagus.  It sounds like a lot, but the flavors were all balanced, and did not overpower the freshness of the fish. The salmon is captured via reefnet fishing.  Wild Pacific salmon
reefnet fishing is a historical method of fishing, and still done today by the fisherman of the island. San Juan Islands are the only place in the world that performs this method of fishing. Because of the handling during the fishing process it produces the highest quality fish.

Smoked Pork Belly – Like the oysters the pork belly had the wonderful smoked flavor.  It tasted like a really good smoked ham, tender and flavorful.

Eden Hill also offers a 5 course blind tasting menu.  It is described as dishes that the chef came up with that day with the ingredients he has.  The table next to us ordered this, and it looked delicious.  The plates were nothing that was on the menu.  So needless to say I will be back, and doing the tasting menu.

Eden Hill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bar Ferd'nand (Upper and Lower)

Bar Ferd’nand has expanded. To those of you that might not be familiar with Bar Ferd’nand, it is a little wine shop in the Melrose market.  It offers a great selection of old world wines and some new world wines as well.  Bar Ferd’nand is owned by Marc Papineau and Matt Dillon (Sitka and Spruce, Corson Building, Bar Sajour, and London Plane). If you have not eaten at any Matt Dillon restaurant, you need to go NOW!  I had the pleasure of first meeting Marc in 2008 at the Corson Building when I attended dinner there. The food alone at the Corson Building is amazing, but Marc just takes it over the top with his wine parings.  His choices for that night were not from vineyards I had ever heard of (mostly old world), but enjoyed every single one I had…even the white ones. (I prefer reds)  What I also remember about that evening, Marc seem to have a story about the vineyard or the winemaker.  Which I actually enjoyed.  To me it seemed how passionate he is about the wine and that passion resonates in the wines he pours.

Bar Ferd’nand (now referred to Lower Bar Ferd’nand) opened in 2010 in the Melrose Market. It allowed us ordinary people into the mind and wine of Marc.  To see and experience wines you normally do not have access to or even knew to look for.  On a recent visit to LBF we purchased a Rioja wine that had just recently been their wine society that month.  The wine was called Monte Real. I am not good with my wine descriptors.  I can just say it was delicious, and you should try it if you can.
In December 2015, Upper Bar Ferd’nand (UPF) opened in Chophouse Row on Capitol Hill.  UPF offers the same variety of wines.  The wine selection did not seem to be as big as LBF’s selection. However, UPF has a small kitchen that provides shareable plates. UPF has a cozy, intimate, kind of personal feel to it.  You can just sit at the bar enjoy a conversation over a lovely glass of wine, while you sit and view into the open concept kitchen watching your food being prepared.  Just like you went over to your friend’s house.  UPF offers house made cured meats, seafood and meat dishes, and grilled clay pot dishes. They are planning to do flatbreads/pizza in the future.  The night we visited Marc was behind the bar and Matt in the kitchen.  The Dynamic Duo!!!

We had “BeastMode” and Spot Prawns & Shishito Peppers with green sauce.  Now BeastMode is not Marshawn Lynch served on a platter.  It is several of chef’s choices (some on the menu and some not) that he puts together for you.  Kind of like a little tasting plate of delightful items, and a great way to sample a few of the items on the menu.  There was some cured meats, chorizo, pickled veggies, sheep’s milk cheese from Whidbey Island and quince jam (this was so decadent tasting), and cured pork neck and buffalo mozzarella.   The spot prawns were good as well.  There was a bit of a spice, but not where it overpowered the prawns.  The green sauce provided that bit refreshing coolness from the spice. 

UPF offers about 5 or so wines for the classes for red and white.  The glass price range from $10 -$20.  We opted for a bottle of wine from the Loire Valley which complemented our food nicely.

If you are new to wine or wine lover like me, I highly you recommend visit one of the Bar Ferd’nand.  You are in for a wine treat and will not be disappointed.

Upper Bar Ferd'nand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Lower Bar Ferd'nand Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sideways Snow, Truck Stops and the State Meal of Oklahoma

I will admit that most of the time I am a bit of a food snob.  I will drive by some eating establishments that look a little sketchy and wonder who would eat at a place like this.  However, I do know there are some of these sketchy places/greasy spoons that end up having some pretty decent food. Perhaps not 5 stars or Michelin stars, but still pretty good food.  Sometimes you just need to get over the food snobbery and give that place a try.

Over the holidays, I visited my parents in Albert Lea, MN.  For those of you not familiar with the area, Albert Lea is located at the interchange of Interstate 90 (East-West) and Interstate 35 (North –-South).  Needless to say it sees a lot of drivers, cars and 18 wheelers that drive these roads.  Like any good American highway driving, you will always find a truck stop along the way.  Truck stops can be a haven for weary drivers, especially truck drivers on long hauls.  They offer a lot of services; food, showers, restrooms, and a place to stretch your legs.  I would have never considered the truck stop restaurant a go to restaurant, until my recent visit to Albert Lea.

I probably had not been in the car for more than 30 minutes after dad picked us up at the airport, when he began talking about the chicken fried steak at Petro (the local truck stop).  He goes on and on about how good it is, and that he and my mom have been out several times just to have it.  He then suggests we should go out there for dinner during our stay.

In previous post, I have written about growing up in Oklahoma.  According to Wikipedia, “chicken fried steak is among numerous popular dishes which make up the official state meal of Oklahoma added to the list in 1988.” I don’t need Wikipedia to tell me this.  I grew up eating chicken fried steak.  This is my comfort foods, and one of the few dishes I MUST eat when I visit Oklahoma.  I’m sure any kid from Oklahoma probably says this, but my grandmother made the best chicken fried state.  My mom and I tried to learn how to how make it, but it never turned out or tasted as good.  I can never get the crust right or the gravy never turns out right. Granted the preparation is the same, finding that restaurant that makes the perfect chicken steak is very important.  Even then  it will not taste as good as my grandmothers, but it is close as I am going to get. This is why I have given up ordering country fried steak outside of the state of Oklahoma.  It is never cooked right, the gravy is bland, and I end up disappointed. So now you can see why I was a little dubious about my father’s positive reviews of the chicken fried steak at the local truck stop.  Minnesota + Chicken Fried Steak = I don’t think so!  I attempted not to take his recommendation for dinner at Petro seriously, and thought it just might get forgotten.  However, on Monday afternoon when I ask my mother what we are doing for dinner, her response was “Petro, your dad said you wanted to try the chicken fried steak…Don’t you?”.  I was now fully realizing I was going to be eating chicken fried steak, in Minnesota, at a truck stop.

So most of Monday it snowed, and there were moments were it came down pretty hard.  Now if we were in Seattle with this weather, I would for sure have a definite out.  No one ventures out in the snow in Seattle.  However, in Minnesota you venture out no matter whatever the weather is.  10 inches of snow..ahh… that is nothing.  Snow blowing sideways…ahhh… don’t worry about it. A little snow never stopped anyone!

So Monday night, my parents and my husband jump into the SUV, and head out into the frozen tundra, through the blowing snow, and head to the truck stop.  We pull into the parking lot, and my parents remark how empty it seems.  I think to myself this is because all the sane people stayed indoors, out of the snow to be warm and safe.  Although the good thing about this, is we got a parking spot right by the door.  So my trek through the snow to the door was not so frozen.
As you walk into the establishment you are greeted by grand Viking and his shield maiden.  I’m pretty certain I just did not just enter Valhalla.  We make our way back to the bar area to sit at a table
there.  Although I am not clear why we did not sit in the dining area, the bar did make for more of a colorful dining experience.

The menu reads like a typical diner; burgers, pastas, chicken, ribs etc. My dinner had already been decided, so there was no need to study the menu. However, if you are vegetarian, vegan, watching your figure, have high cholesterol and/or blood pressure then this is not the place for you.  The food is supposed to fuel the drivers and trucker patrons to allow them to carry on to their final destination. All I can say once I finished my meal, I was ready for nap and not for driving 200 miles.

Orders are placed, so now it is just sit back wait and listen to some interesting conversations at the bar.  There were probably about 7-9 what I assume to be truckers sitting at the bar.  Conversations ranged from NASCAR, the boss telling him not to sleep in his truck, one complaining about the size of his cab for sleeping (his belly hit the roof), and hearing the waitress being called sweetheart a handful of times.

Finally dinner arrived.  The infamous truck stop chicken fried steak had arrived!  At first look it didn’t look bad.  It was definitely generous portion of steak and potatoes.  Now for any chicken fried steak connoisseur, like myself, what really makes the steak is the crust and the gravy.  At first glance, the steak seemed to have a nice coating and looked good and crispy. The gravy was a white and thick, which is also a good sign.  You would think I was a Top Chef Judge, as I sat and analyzed the presentation, and was silent for my first couple of bites as I savored the flavors in my mouth to make my judgments about this fine steak I was consuming. My critique, was the crust was a little over seasoned with salt and pepper for my taste, whereas the gravy was a little under seasoned. All in all, for a steak in the Northern frozen tundra, it was not all that bad.  I have definitely had worse.  I least enjoyed the meal, and was not disgusted with it.  I can tell you I was a little surprised.  My expectations were a little on the low side, but I managed to be a little impressed.  Now does this mean I will be running out to my local truck stop to eat chicken fried streak??  UMMM..NO!  I can guess though I will be going back to the truck stop on my next visit home, and I am good with that.  Makes for some interesting storytelling.

Dinner is over, my belly full and pretty happy.  The family treks out into the freezing temperatures, the blowing snow, and begin our short journey home.  I’m just thankful we are going 5 miles instead of 200 miles.  As we pass an 18 wheeler struggling to make the hill in the snow, my day is cheerfully says see wasn’t that worth the trip out to tonight?

My recommendation is if you are going to eat chicken fried steak, go to Oklahoma and eat it.  However, if you do happen to be in Albert Lea, MN stop at Petro and treat yourself to some Northern style of chicken fried steak.