seattle brunching

We’ve had a great spring in Seattle this year – I mean, sure, we’ve had our gray and rain – but we’ve had some really fortunate sunny weekend days too that we don’t always get. These types of days tends to make Seattleites restless and frisky – and they come out of the woodwork, happy.  For us this means playing outside a bit more – but randomly, it appears it has also meant more brunching.  While brunch food isn’t always the most photogenic, our outings have been such good ones, I feel the need to report on them here.

brunch dames goose

St. Dames – I had heard some very good things about this season-focused vegetarian restaurant and bar in Columbia City/Ranier Valley, and if brunch is any indicator – it is spectacular.  My ‘daily omelette’ was  fritata-like (top right), and had a good balance of herbs and a smoky cheese, with a well-dressed spinach salad on the side.  Their drink menu will also change per the seasons – I happened to have a Santa Sangre, whose color and flavor was heightened with beet juice and complemented with herbal goodness (top right).  I realize as I type this it sounds odd, but trust me, it was yummy – and felt healthy, even if it included alcohol.

The Wandering Goose – has a southern edge to it, so of course I was intrigued.  It is a tiny wedge of a place on 15th on Capitol Hill, and while the tables might be hard to come by, they are fun with poems and quotes burned into them (above, bottom right). I went with the veggie hash – a yummy concoction served in a small cast iron pan of seasonal veggies, potatoes & poached eggs – which was excellent and the biscuits were happy-making as well.

brunch ma'ono fiddle

Fiddlehead – While I have a mission to check out all the southern-themed spots, Shawn’s item of focus is biscuits and gravy.  Our friend Stephanie had been talking up the biscuits and gravy at Fiddlehead in West Seattle for some time, so we had to give it a whirl.  Much discussion was had about the unique sausage and greens gravy, which Shawn declared some of the best in the city – the biscuits themselves weren’t quite flaky enough for his taste, but all in all a very successful find (top left).  My breakfast caused no debate – the salmon potato cakes with spinach and poached eggs were just hands down good.

Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whiskey – formerly Spring Hill (but same chef and owner), also in West Seattle – the name of this establishment leads you to believe their menu is singularly focused, but don’t overlook breakfast. Highlights of the table at a recent birthday brunch were chicken and waffles (bottom right) and eggs Benedict (bottom left), but even my straight-up sunny-side-up was accompanied by the most perfect crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside potatoes.  Yum!

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a few choice beverages

I’ve had a few exceptional beverages recently – and felt the need to share:

Essex – owned by the next door Delancey, this is the perfect spot for a drink while you wait for you table next door – or in my case recently, a late afternoon libation with a girlfriend to catch up.  They have several cocktails on tap (my Americano for example, above, left), and they make all sorts of tinctures, bitters and such to make very artful cocktails.

Milstead & Co. – a newish coffee spot n Fremont that takes its coffee seriously. They serve Intelligencia and Stumptown coffees, and pull a beautiful shot, with great milk art (with lots of alternative milks for you non-dairy folks).  They will also do regional varietial single-brew pots as well as spot-on cold-brewed iced-coffee.

Sambar – there is only one week left at tiny jewel of a bar in an off-the-beaten-path part of Ballard.  While I had some mixed feelings about the institution of a restaurant that Sambar is attached to – I still find it sad that they both have (or are about to) close.  I love the little side yard, and the incredible mixologist.  So, if you’ve never been and have a moment to get there before the end of the month,  I highly recommend it!

tacos

This summer has been a fairly low-key one after all the goings-on – a lot more time at home, and a lot less spending after the festivities of spring.  But I still can’t help but want to explore new food spots, and that is where the taco comes in.  Inexpensive but filling, there are so many varieties in the city these days – from traditional to experimental.  Here are a few of the new-to-me spots we’ve tried:


Marination Station is a brick and mortar version of the popular Marination Mobile trucks that serve all sorts of beautiful Hawaiian-Korean flavors meeting Mexican dishes – their marinated meats (specifically the pork) being their specialty.  Kim chee fried rice and quesadillas are close on the pork’s heels – and all were exceptionally good.  While you can find their mobile trucks all over town, the Station stays put on Capitol Hill, above the QFC on Broadway.  With the permanent location you can add a beer or wine to meal too.

Off the Rez is another new mobile favorite.  The owner, a Blackfoot Native American, teamed up with his classically-trained chef childhood friend to bring authentic fry bread to Seattle.  I have a soft spot for fry bread – taking me back to the summers building strawbale buildings on the N. Cheyenne Reservation – but, dare I say it, these smaller, crisper versions are even better!  A great vehicle for sweet toppings but I would say go for their tacos.  All that we’ve tasted are good, but the 10-hour pulled pork is the standout winner with the cabbage slaw.  The quinoa succotash is a great hearty side as well.

Pecado Beuno is not mobile, but with it’s large porch and decent cheap eats it seemed worth a mention.  We’ve tried a variety of items – the tortas, potato taquitos and the butternut squash tacos have been the standouts thus far – nothing fancy, but definitely solid. Friendly staff and $3 margaritas help for sure – and a spot for the dog to sit with us after a stroll has made it a good neighborhood haunt this summer.

holy cannoli

I have a thing about desserts where crispy and creamy collide, so I decided to check out (for research purposes, of course) Holy Cannoli – a ‘Detroit-style’ cannoli-focused bakery in Belltown.  Detroit-style refers to the filling primarily – i.e. custard-filled instead of NY-style ricotta-filled (which the owner says – and these might be fighting words, “ricotta is lazy. Your not cooking a custard, you are just putting an ingredient in a bowl”).  A small storefront bakery (in the base of Mosler Lofts for you current and former Mithunees), Holy Cannoli has many freshly prepared cream flavors to choose from – all delivered in a perfectly crispy pastry shell. They are small so you don’t feel too guilty trying one for an afternoon sweet craving – or sampling a couple together as a dessert.  I tried a couple (again, research) – Traditional and Lemoncello.  They both were lovely little creamy crispy bites, but the Traditional made me happiest with that little bit of chocolate as the perfect additional element.  Whether you are tried and true NY-style cannoli person or not – there aren’t many folks in Seattle who make a decent cannoli any style – these are lovely, and it is definitely worth giving them a try.  You never know – you may never go back once you’ve had “Detroit-style”.

ballard pizza company

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Ballard Pizza Company is the newest outpost of the Ethan Stowell empire, serving NYC style pies and slices.  While it is a more pedestrian price point than his other spots, it is with the same care in food prep and ingredients choice.  On a recent stroll to Old Ballard from work one day, I decided to pop in and take advantage of “Flour Hour” (a steal at $2 a slice, 3-5p & 10-11p M-Th).  Slices are normally $3-3.50 which isn’t bad either, especially given that one slice is big enough for a lot of folks.  I tried the special that day which was ricotta, spring onion and kale – a spot-on trio that made me happy.  While the focus is on the pies, there are a few salads, starters and desserts along with a few choice libations to wash it down.  Open late too, this straightforward spot with a friendly staff is a good go-to in the neighborhood!

the wedding

So… apologies for the radio silence here at brayhayden.wordpress.com.  Apparently, planning a lower-budget, DIT (do-it-together) wedding will take up ALL of your free time for months.  Especially when you land on the location just over 4 months from the date you pick (despite a 10-month engagement).  But, then again, it seems like these wedding things have a habit of taking up all of your free time regardless of how long you plan, so while it was a crazy ride for those 4 months – it was such an amazing, amazing wedding weekend – I can’t imagine that planning any longer would have made it any better. In fact, it would have probably just stressed us out more – and where is the fun in that perfectly thought-out detail when you know it drove you insane?  Just a tiny-bit of insanity and a few “fly by the seat of our pants” details thrown in for good measure , were just fine by me.  But, probably most important… that short time-frame forced me to understand that I couldn’t do it alone, and that I needed to tap into the best brigade of friends and family to help me execute this thing – and for them I am forever grateful.

I won’t put everyone’s name in print (in case they aren’t into that) but so many things that made this wedding truly special were created with the help of this amazing brigade:  family helping us finance this whole shindig as well as an amazing BBQ the night before, and a family dinner in Seattle before the weekend began.  Friends helping plan, collect and create many of the items for the decorations – the space was transformed into an art installation of large paper flowers and crepe.  Terrariums were made and babysat leading up to the event. Jars and jars of flower arrangements, and the bouquet and boutineer were created.

We hired a caterer for our main dish (The Paella King is incredible!) and folks to help work the event – but all the other nibbles, side dishes, cocktails and cake were made and plated by friends.

We had folks doing readings to make up the bulk of our ceremony, and dog wranglers helping us with George and his ring-bearing job.  We had an incredible cast of rotating musicians playing special pieces throughout the night – leading one friend to say “the music has been so good, I feel like I should have bought a ticket to see this”.  Another friend wrangling the playlist.  Two friends documenting the events of the weekend through photos when the fellow we hired wasn’t on duty (thanks to Shannon and Kathryn, my photo-a-day mates – below, middle – a lot of these shots in this post are theirs). Another buddy helping with the photobooth.

Folks flying in from all corners of the country to share this with us on the far island in the Northwest – and all of them laughing, crying, and dancing with us.  All of it made us feel so surrounded by love.  So humbling – and we are so thankful to our brigade!

So – now I hope to get back in the swing here on the blog – getting back to more wandering and photo-taking.  Highlights from our NYC trip coming soon!

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!