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!

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


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!

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!

the pantry at delancey

I have mentioned my love for Delancey pizza previously here – and now there is an amazing new back door addition to exclaim about – The Pantry at Delancey.  I first got a sneak peek at the space earlier in the summer due to the owners being avid RE Store folks, creatively using a fair amount of salvage in their creation of the brightly lit, tucked away place.  I am (slowly, but surely) working on a Salvage Ballard Walking Map at my day job that I am excited to include them on – since they are singing our praises whenever folks ask “where did you get that door?”, etc.  About that time, they were about to open their doors for cooking classes, family dinners, catering – and general community creation centered around food.  Right up my alley on many levels!  Their classes were wildly popular from the word “go”, but one caught my eye, and still had room –  I signed up immediately for Food Photography.  It was a great class, taught by Ashley of Not Without Salt.  Lots of technical reminders for me, such as checking white balance – somehow I had gotten away from that with digital.  Then time for staging and taking different shots in different light conditions and locations around The Pantry.  And perhaps the best part for a bunch of foodies – breaking bread around the big farm table with a light meal, wine and camaraderie with folks of similar minds.  Some of the great folks I shared this with were food bloggers of all kinds, like  Stacy Holli, and Dawn.  A great community and space has been created around food – keep an eye out for food classes for yourself!

volunteer park cafe

A few weeks back, one of my “most favorite people in the world that I don’t get to see enough” came to Seattle for a visit from Nashville –  Kath to me,  aka Kathryn aka Lady Smokey.  This of course was cause for celebration for my Seattle-based Kathy and I, and that most definitely means food is involved with this trio.  So we decided upon the lovely tucked away spot of Volunteer Park Cafe to linger over a delicious meal, and catch up with stories and giggling.  It has that totally comfortable neighborhood mainstay kind of feel – and it does that very well with coffee and pastries,  a central communal table, some great sounding sammys by day and the option to have take-home dinners and wine by night – but their fresh ingredients and artfully prepared dishes are too good to keep the secret to their little tucked away part of Capitol Hill.  The menu is just a few well-honed catagories (salads, house specialties, pizzas and small plates), and does ebb and flow per the seasons.  This visit we split an incredible salad of shaved fennel and artichoke (trying to re-create this at home was pretty disastrous – just go have theirs!), and a wood-fired pizza with onion jam, gorgonzola, and figs.  There was a gazpacho at the table that was the lovely essense of tomatoes as well.  Simple and straightforward, but don’t let that fool you – all perfectly wonderful stuff.  As their web address declares, ‘always fresh goodness’ is right!


dahlia workshop

Those of you that know me, know that I am pretty dang serious about a good biscuit.  And not just any ol’ biscuit will do for this displaced southerner.  I’ve waxed poetic about Pine State Biscuit in Portland many times – and while its distance may add a hint of its mystique, it still is THE most like what my family called biscuits.  However, Seattle has a new kid on the block that is putting up a dang good fight – and its closer proximity does put it in my good graces.  Dahlia Workshop definitely had a leg up, as it is a part of Tom Douglas’ restaurant empire – but this perennial NW chef (or at least his bakers) know the subtle ways of a southern style biscuit.  Tucked under the new location of Serious Pie (also worth another nod – can I say “truffle cheese and morel pizza?!”) in S. Lake Union, this understated space churns out some fine, fine biscuits and various stuffings.  Our first try was when the mama was visiting – where we tried the fried chicken, the truffle frittata, and the fried green tomato and remoulade sauce biscuits – all amazing in their own rights.  Along with some incredibly kind, not-from-here wait staff, it made for a great impromptu conversation and late morning breakfast.  I can’t wait to go back and check out their version of happy hour too!

the yard

Sometimes you just need a pint.  And the best atmosphere for those times is a nice straightforward place, preferably with a hint of the woodsy, and maybe a spot to hang out outside (especially if our summer would ever arrive).  The Yard is just that kind of place – and they take their pints very seriously.  Owned by the same folks that brought you The Dray – so if you’ve always wanted a bit more room, but with a similar low-key, friendly atmosphere as the Dray (which is a lovely place too) then The Yard might be up your alley.   It is also an incredible bonus for this seeker of authentic Mexican food that they also take their food menu very seriously as well – fresh tortillas and tortas filled with your choice of asadas, or veggies, or tomatillo chicken, along with simple pleasure of fresh made chips and guacamole.  I recently met a friend there during their first weeks of being open – and I have a feeling I will be checking this place out again very soon.