birthday dinners

I used to not really like having a birthday on January 2nd – people are worn out by the holidays, event-ed out by New Year’s Eve, and ready to get back to some order by the time my day of the year comes around.  However – as my dear buddy Kath has campaigned for years – this just means that my birthday spans the whole month of January, as folks spread out the love taking me out for lunch or drinks for weeks after ‘the day’ (or go do things like Olympus Spa – thanks Lori!) .  This year, I happened to get several lovely dinners in my honor that are worth noting here:

Shawn and I had a lovely lingering multi-course meal at Anchovies and Olives.  I do really like Ethan Stowell’s restaurants, but I feel like every time I’ve left one, I seem to have had one dish that was overpowering in some way (like way too much parsley in a risotto once at How to Cook Like a Wolf).  Anchovies and Olives was not this way however!  Each dish was a more subtle mix of flavors of the sea at this Italian-seafood spot.  The oysters were so well accompanied, my beet salad was so well-balanced between crunch, green, beet and anchovy dressing.  My shrimp polenta took the prize however (second from right) – creaminess spiked and balanced with a rich savory broth.  As with all of his restaurants – the space is lovely too!

My buddy Alison took me to Artusi (thanks Al!) – the charming little Italian ‘apertivo’ bar attached to Spinasse.  We had some great small plate snacks (outside of  being a tad surprised by the tuna ‘salsa’ they had with the beets).  I will go back for the fried capers alone and the pickled Jerusalem artichokes made me think of my southern grannie’s infamous pickles of the same root.  The drinks were the stand out for sure though.   I tried the ‘Marinetti’s Automobile’ (above, left) – rye, fig vinegar, some liquors, a touch of cayenne and a cherry, which sounds all over the place as I type it out, but was smooth and fabulous.  The Amaro I finished off the meal with took me right back to that quarter spent in Italy where several meals ended with the Italian bitter liqueurs (the server was spot on with her recommendation of finding something a little off the beaten path – but I can’t remember the name of the one I got!).  Also a lovely space to tuck yourself into when looking for a light meal or drinks.

There was also a  lively meal spent with the gang at KushiBar – a casual spot focused on Japanese style street food eats.  A variety of skewers, ramen and udon – it is a great place to please a group without the typical costs in most of our city’s Japanese restaurants.  The popcorn, the veggie skewers and the squash tempura are the standouts for me.  Thanks so much for all the birthday celebrating this year everybody!

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new new orleans favorites

It had been about 4 years since my last New Orleans visit, so on a recent trip there in November trip with my college roommates (Hi PHPs!), I was very happy to visit all my old favorites – mentioned here previously.  But, we also happily sought out a few new spots and as always, New Orleans delivered – especially in the food department!  A few of note to add:

La Boulangerie (4600 Magazine St., Uptown) – Incredible baked goods, and raves of perfection have been heard about their traditional baguettes.

Sucre – a pristine sweets shop, they have cupcakes, gelato and perfect little truffles and chocolates, but we went in for their macaroons, which we found to be lovely.  If memory serves me, the salted caramel, chicory and peppermint were our favorites.

Creole Creamery – an old school ice cream shop vibe, but with a wide spectrum of inventive flavors.

Ignatius Eatery (4200 Magazine St, Uptown) – just a few blocks away from our rental house, we went in looking for a solid lunch in this charming old corner-grocery style restaurant.  We ended up coming away with what was probably our most favorite meal of this trip.  The Shrimp Etouffee was incredible, as well as the Shrimp Remoulade Po’boy.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House Restaurant ( 2401 Saint Ann St, 7th Ward ) –  Historically run by a spitfire of a woman – Willie Mae, still going strong – and is now run faithful to history by her granddaughter.  There was a huge volunteer effort to bring this place back after Hurricane Katrina – and I am so happy I got a chance to check it out.  Dang. Incredible fried chicken! Accompanied by very lovely and comforting red beans and rice, butter beans and cornbread – but it is really all about the chicken, made to order.

The Columns Victory Lounge –  Not a new one for me, but it does deserve a mention, since I have found myself at this timeless gathering spot almost every visit to New Orleans going way back to undergrad. Tuck yourself into one of the rooms of the main floor, or amongst the grand columns on the porch for a cocktail –  this is hands-down my favorite place for a Sazerac Rye.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

cannon

Okay… so the last few weeks of the year kind of got away from me.  And I know I have a few notes on places like New Orleans that I keep meaning to convey here – but for now I thought I would get back up on the blogging horse with a quickie.  If you are one of those folks with New Years resolutions that involve not drinking – come back to me when you’ve checked that off your list.  For those of you, perhaps in need of drink after 2011 tossed you about, and you are in Seattle – this one is for you:  Cannon.   Low-lit with nice architectural detailing, it is a lovely little bar housed in the former Licorous on 12th next to Lark.  I was sad to see Licorous go, but Cannon is so good it can make you forget.    All the best mixologist in town seem to have a stint there at some point in the week, and they mix up a mean cocktail – or a sweet or lovely one – whatever you are hankering.  If you get the Cannon Roulette – the bartender will decide for you, creating from the incredibly stocked bar of bitters, infusions, fruits and herbs.  You just tell them the liquor you are in the mood for (they specialize in Ryes and Bourbons, but have the gamut) – and they size you up – creating a perfect of the moment cocktail just for you.  The few snacks I tried were incredibly good too.  2012 will be better – and a beverage from Cannon will insure that!