farmville

This morning I went head to head with two of my biggest fears: dead things and spiders. The dead thing was a rat, discovered under a tarp while I was helping to renovate the play yard at Lucy’s school. The spider was small but ominous-looking, and I cringed and silently screamed as I moved it out of the immediate area with a shovel (good thing I used the shovel, as I found out later it was a black widow). Now I’m home, over-washing my hands, trying to stomach lunch and forget about every creepy-crawly disease-carrying creature I have come into contact with today.

Writing this post comes at an opportune time because I needed to remind myself that not all animals make my skin crawl. This is one of the reasons why I’m most comfortable in the city—there are minimal bugs, rodents, and general pests to deal with in this wet metropolis. But once in a while, in small doses, I like to kick off my heels (if I wore heels), strap on some boots and tread (lightly, avoiding cow pies and snakes) into the country.  Last weekend was our final opportunity to experience the pungent glory of the Evergreen State Fair, so Lucy, Dave, some friends and I fearlessly entered the land of fried Twinkies and live bacon.

Normally, this would have been a food post. Normally I would have ordered that Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich and deep fried Oreos and reported back. But sadly, I’m stuck in week 12 of everything-makes-me-want-to-hurl. Everything except a corndog. For some unholy reason, that sounded delicious. So I got one. I took one bite. And then my daughter snatched it from my hands and gobbled the whole thing with such gusto that I couldn’t have stopped her if I tried. It was like a pit bull tasting a steak for the first time.

She may have a future in competitive hot dog eating contests, that girl.

The idea of fair cuisine always sounds more appealing than it actually is, anyway. That cotton candy sounds like a brilliant idea at first, but after two rounds on the Tilt-a-Whirl you’ll end up regretting it.

But onto more important (and cuter) things. We saw an array of adorable animals at the fair, starting with pygmy goats. I don’t know if there is any cuter miniature animal than a pygmy goat. They fight like toddlers, gallop like (pygmy) horses, and butt heads like bulls. If every spider in the country was a pygmy goat, I’d move in a heartbeat.

Ducks. I’m not a fan of fowl in general (except for eating), but this little white guy was so fluffy I could have taken him home.

Pigs. Baby pigs. Well, maybe adolescent pigs—I don’t know what the protocol for pig age is. But those little pink ears with their fuzzy hair and black spots just made my heart give way.

More pigs. Big pigs. I believe this gal was 300 pounds. I love how it looks like they’re smiling when they sleep.

Pig pile. A really really big, bone-crushing pig pile.

And a teeny tiny pig pile. These baby pigs were about 10 days old. I wanted to cuddle them but the sign assured me that if I tried, their 400 pound mommy pig would crush me like a fly.

Baaah Marley. Dave’s joke, not mine.

Pygmy Goat Gruff. I couldn’t decide if he wanted to bite me or if he was smiling. Maybe both.

And last but not least, the rare and majestic Lucy riding an elephant. Seems as though she’s a natural at riding pachyderms, too. Maybe my daughter is destined to be a carny.

We had a fun time at the fair, mingling with the country folk, visiting with the animals, admiring the fattening fried treats. But in the end, I was glad to return to the city. Had I known a dead rat and a black widow were awaiting me a few days later, maybe I would have stayed with the pigs and goats. I suppose you can’t win them all. But you can come prepared with a long shovel and lots and lots of hand sanitizer.

-RDG

serious pie.

This pizza post was supposed to come at you on monday, but I was thwarted by the battle of the blog hosts. My husband Dave has been working diligently to get RDG switched over to a new (cheaper) host with more storage, and there have been more than a few bumps along the way. It’s finally done—with my blog and all it’s contents perfectly intact. Bless his little coding heart. And his cute butt.

Also, while we’re discussing housekeeping matters of sorts, I wanted to say a quick word about these restaurant posts. While I was photographing these delicious pizzas (which I hate myself a little bit for doing, by the way—I find flashes in dimly lit restaurants completely annoying), a rather loud man at the table next door piped up and said, “Ah! A food critic! She must write for the paper!” I assured him that no, I am not a critic. I’m not paid for it—I just do it for fun. Luckily loud man and his wife pounded three glasses of wine each, inhaled their pizza, got into two verbal spats and left before the third could begin.

I bring this up because I want to make it clear: I am not a critic. I have not the foggiest idea what I’m talking about when I discuss food. I can only tell you what I like, and therefore I’d like these to be considered restaurant recommendations and not critiques. I’m certainly not going to spend my time and energy telling you all about a restaurant I didn’t like—that’s Ruth Reichel’s territory and she’s damn good at it. I am a tiny, insignificant Seattlite who manages to make it out for a meal once in a while. And I really enjoy telling you all about it.

So now onto the important part of this post: pizza. Serious, and seriously delicious, pizza. Serious Pie is a Tom Douglas joint, and it stands next door to two of his other eateries Dahlia Lounge and Lola. I respect him enormously as a chef and as a restauranteur. He and his wife Jackie do wonderful things for this city, culinary and otherwise.

Serious Pie doesn’t take reservations, and there is often a wait for a table. They’ll call you on your cell when your table is ready, so Dave and I passed the time across the street browsing Bed, Bath and Beyond. It was my version of waiting heaven; not so for my anti-shopping husband.

When we finally did score our table we were starved and needed something to nosh on right away. For a starter, I ordered the roasted cherries with a milky medallion of burrata in the center. The cherries were sweet, tender, and perfectly paired with the creamy burrata. Pine nuts added a nice crunch, and even the tiny bit of mint garnish blended perfectly with the flavors.

Dave had a salad of wild lamb’s quarter, which are slightly bitter greens with a toothy crunch. Local strawberries, pine nuts and tuada cheese made for a salad of amazing summer flavors.

And onto the star of the show: this incredible pizza. Roasted crimini mushrooms and truffle cheese atop what I can only describe as the world’s perfect pizza crust.

Not only is it perfectly cooked (quickly in a hot, hot alder wood fire oven), but the crust actually has flavor. It’s salty, savory, crispy on the edges and chewy in the center. And those puffy bubbles? Irresistible.

Dave happily noshed on a pizza of wild boar sausage and Walla Walla onions.

The crust, again, was perfect; the sausage tender and moist. The sweet onions balanced out the richness of the cheese and meat, and it all blended together perfectly in our happy, deliciously satisfied tummies. We were delighted to take home leftovers and (just in case we needed dessert later) a slice of coconut cream pie from Dahlia.

If anyone knows how to make this crust at home, I’d give you my right foot for the recipe. Okay, maybe just a toe. But until then, you can find loitering outside Serious Pie, waiting for a table.

-RDG

agua verde

If you know anything about me, or if you’ve read this blog for anything longer than a hot second, you know that I’m a sucker for Mexican food. I believe wholeheartedly that Mexican food and I were put on this planet to find each other. It was destiny. It was fate. Stars collided. And don’t even get me started on how I met my friend sour cream. That’s a story for a different kind of blog.

So when it came time to host our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding, we all knew where my vote went. We took our nearest and dearest and out-of-town-est to this cool taco joint on the water for simple eats and yummy margaritas.

Now, a few years later and plus one toddler, we still come here a lot. It’s cute, brightly painted…

…and has a fantastic view of the lake. They also rent kayaks down below, which makes for a perfect weekend date.

But why we really come here isn’t the atmosphere or the boats. It’s the food. And starting with one trip to the salsa bar before your meal, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Everything tastes so remarkably fresh.

Husband orders the Bagre: grilled catfish splashed with salsa and creamy avocado sauce. The fish is tender and flavorful and the sauces are a perfect compliment.

Brother and I order the BBQ pork, which is shredded, slathered in sweet, spicy BBQ sauce and served atop crunchy slaw and soft tortillas.

Dad goes for the Camarones: fresh sauteed shrimp topped with pico and a creamy, sweet curried sauce. I love eating with my family. I get to try bites of everything.

They’ve also got incredible vegetarian options and an entire menu outside of the taco column, if I were ever to stray from my usual and branch out. I’ve also have heard it through the grapevine that their little outside window serves up killer breakfast burritos in the morning.

So now go, Seattlites. Eat tacos. And prosper. It’s just occurred to me that I’ve gotten in the habit of recommending restaurants on mondays. If it’s cool with you, it’s cool with me.

-RDG

P.S. You can check out Agua Verde right here.

marination

When the nation’s best food truck is serving up delicious eats (somewhat) close to your neighborhood, at a time that is convenient for you and your toddler, on a day when your hungry husband (who won’t let you go without him) can join you, you go check it out.

Marination is, arguably, Seattle’s most gabbed about food truck. It has won every local award under the foodie sun, made us drool all over Seattle Magazine’s April cover, and has become infamous for it’s long lines at Mobile Chowdown. I figured there had to be a reason for all of this hype. But sometimes in Seattle hype is a tossup—you could wrap a flax tortilla around a hemp sausage and people might never stop raving about it. We are, after all, the same folk who wore nothing but flannel and socks with sandals not so long ago.

Just kidding. I trust in your taste in food, Seattle. Even you hippies. Who still wear socks with sandals.

We meandered our way down to Columbia City to an empty bank parking lot where the truck was stationed for the lunch hour. I was too curious not to.

Actual size of toddler. Actual size of Marination Mobile. She later tried to dive head first into that yellow trash can.

The menu is small—tacos, fried rice, sliders, and a quesadilla. I’m assuming it’s a byproduct of Marination’s tiny mobile kitchen, but I also think that a limited menu is the mark of a good restaurant in general. It usually means that they know what they do well and what their customers like.

First up: the Aloha slider. Shredded pork, slaw and creamy sauce on a toasted sweet Hawaiian roll. This is likely Marination’s signature dish, and it didn’t disappoint. The pork was slightly sweet and tender, the slaw crisp and tangy, and the sauce melded nicely with the sweet roll. I only wish I had ordered more of them.

Next on our tasting menu was the Kimchi Quesadilla. Melty cheese, the same sweet, tender pork, slathered in that same delicious sauce. I didn’t think it was amazing, but as far as creative quesadillas go, this one was top notch.

Husband wolfed down two tiny tacos: one kalbi beef and one spicy pork. The beef was sweet (sensing a pattern here?) and garlicy, and the pork was gently spicy and super moist. These were the true stars of Marination for our hungry clan. Next round, when I manage to track this truck down again, I’ll load up on these babies. They also offer a miso ginger chicken taco, which I am anxious to try, and I also want to dig into the Kimchi Rice Bowl, which our friend Linda happily noshed on.

Hype, in this case, was completely deserved. Hunt down this truck, eat lunch, and be happy, Seattle. And if you wear socks with sandals whilst doing so, I won’t tell.

-RDG

parfait

Watch out Seattle. There’s a new gourmet food truck puttering around these pot-holed streets. And this time, it’s not a diner on wheels or the best food cart in the grand ole U.S. of A. The Parfait ice cream truck serves up spoonfuls of the sweet variety: organic, homemade ice creams.

Right off the bat I was a little in love with this joint. Er, truck. I have such fond memories of Popsicle Joe when I was young: chasing after him in flip flops, spraining my ankle, the 16 year-old pimple-faced driver laughing at me as he drove off into the sunset with his Strawberry Shortcakes and Firecrackers. I figured that if nothing else, Parfait would be stationary, serve me ice cream that was not on a stick, and not necessitate an injured joint to enjoy it’s frozen bounty.

We were lucky enough to have them near our neighborhood this weekend, so Husband, Little Bear, some pals and I absolutely had to make the short trip to give these cones a try. The truck is gorgeous, the menu cute and simple, and the staff incredibly friendly and cordial. But what to order?

Our friend Dave, a parfait junkie, went with the mint stracciatella: mint-flavored ice cream with Dagoba chocolate flakes. But this was no ordinary pseudo-mint flavoring—it was made with real, fresh mint leaves. The result was quite a different flavor than your run-of-the-mill chocolate chip mint. It was fresh, earthy, and (as we all remarked with curiosity and laughter) tasted remarkably similar to another green leafy plant.

Yes, that one. Maybe that’s why Dave hangs outside this ice cream truck every Sunday.

For me? I went the herb-free route cuz that’s how I hang. The meyer lemon had my name on all over it, and I was pleasantly surprised by it’s soft lemon flavor. Parts of the ice cream were a little, well, icy; I found a few ice chips lurking in my compostable cup. But overall it was good.

Husband, because he needs chocolate like he needs air and internet, went with a bowl of decadent chocolate ice cream. It was creamy. It was rich. Smooth. Dare I say the best chocolate ice cream in Seattle?

It’s the best I have tasted in a long while. Are there any other new contestants that I need to know about?

When Lucy became aware that there was ice cream to be had, she got a little excited.

And I do believe that as she tasted Daddy’s chocolate, she said “mmmmmm.” I’m not even joking. I have no idea where she gets it from.

Check out Parfait’s schedule to see if they’re headed to your neck of the woods sometime soon. When you go, just make sure that you have a designated driver. The mint stracciatella has quite a kick.

And tell Dave I said hi. He’ll be the one begging on hands and knees for more ice cream. And eating cheetos. And ding dongs. And beef jerky.

-RDG

la carta de oaxaca

Mexican food is necessary for my survival. When I begin to become deficient, my body starts to lag, sputter and spout off puffs of smoke. “Time for a top off,” Husband says, and he takes me to one of my favorite joints to be replenished.

Aside: Could we make cars that run strictly off of Mexican food? Seattle hippies, get on it. Obama? Give them money, please. Watch for me next year on Time’s 100 Most Influential People list. Rainy Day Gal, the woman who founded the movement for clean-burning enchiladas.

I am so freaking smart sometimes that I blow my own mind.

This is one of said favorite joints, or it is now. Being the Mexican food junkie that I am, it may surprise many of you that I had never visited here before. According to Mexican food savants, It’s pretty much the end-all, be-all of Seattle’s Mexican food scene.

Deep in the heart of Ballard, surrounded by a slew of bars, pubs, restaurants and shops, Carta (as locals call it) can get crazy-busy—it’s in a happenin ‘hood. But unlike the number of establishments that stay in business around here because of frat boys and friday nights, it’s here for exactly what it promises: southern Mexican cuisine. And it does a damn good job at it.

I didn’t intend to order the halibut tacos when I dreamed up a trip to this place. In fact, it’s really the last thing that I would order to judge a Mexican restaurant. But when I read the little blurb on the menu that described tender grilled fish topped with fresh pico and a sweet, spicy chipotle sauce, I knew they had to be mine.

The halibut itself was truly the highlight—incredibly fresh and not over-seasoned, not fried and not disguised in a tartar-esque sauce. Simply grilled, served on fresh tortillas with a sweet, tangy sauce. This is how fish tacos should always be. Always. Do we need another movement here? I will call this one, “The Movement for Delicious, Non-Fried Fish Tacos.”

My brother, who works in the area and was able to join us for lunch, went with the Molotes: a sausage and potato blend wrapped in tortilla and fried, topped with house made mole, hot sauce and guac. I’m not usually one for two starches in one dish (potato plus tortilla, in this case), but I thought that the filling was nicely complimented by the fresh corn taste of the tortilla breading. And the mole sauce? Oh my. It was richer and more intensely flavored than any other mole I have ever tried. I could actually taste the chocolate and it gave the sauce a beautifully rounded flavor, as opposed to chain restaurant mole that tastes more like watered down beans mixed with cocoa powder.

Let the “Movement for Exceptional Mole Sauce and Riddance of Bean-Flavored Mole Impostors” begin. Sign my petition at the bottom of the page.

Husband chose the Tacos Enchilados: mini chicken enchiladas fried and topped with that gorgeous mole sauce and queso fresco. Very tasty and not overly-stuffed. Light, crisp, and covered in that addictive spicy chocolate sauce.

I’m all out of creative movement names. Just eat these dang things. It will change your life.

And little bear? She happily noshed on little bites of everything we were having, plus one of mom’s makeup brushes swiped from a bathroom drawer at home. She’s so damn cute she won’t ever need that makeup stuff.

But in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll tell ya that she dropped my favorite makeup brush in a pile of cigarette butts as we were walking down the street after lunch. I considered replacing it, remembered that it cost $30, and then promptly soaked it in a bath of shampoo and disinfectant once we returned home. But I’ll never put on my blush without thinking of where that dang brush has been ever again.

Oh, is that two makeup brushes you see in her hands? Yep. One is a freebie Clinique, a.k.a. “Lucy’s brush” from now on. The other is clean, de-contaminated, and under lock and key in my makeup drawer.

Brush debacles aside, I’m pleased to say that I’ve found a new fill-up station for when my tank starts to run low. Do you think a body could run on mole sauce alone? It’s worth a shot, right?

And Jamie Oliver, watch out. There’s a new revolutionary in town, and I’m taking this movement guerilla-style.

-RDG

artisanal brasserie

Way long ago, like last week, before Husband was laid up on painkillers and we partied like it was 1985, we had a dinner. A birthday dinner for me, celebrating my slide into a new year of life.

Because it was a special occasion, I decided to make a little trek across the water. Yeah, you heard me. I left Seattle. To go somewhere that is not Seattle.

I braved I-5 and the 520 bridge at rush hour on a beautiful sunny day in the name of doing a birthday up right. I highly reccommend snapping photos while you’re driving, by the way, if you’re either:

a) Looking to get in a wreck on a bridge, careen through the barrier, and re-enact the scene from The Bourne Supremacy,

or

b) Want to have other drivers look at you like you’re some kind of stalker.

Where was I headed?

Well, not Hermes specifically. If someone wanted to buy me a Birkin bag for my birthday I wouldn’t protest.

But after picking up Husband from work at a large Eastside software corporation, we headed to Bellevue’s newest building: The Bravern.

It’s a fancy-pants sorta Vegas-style shopping center full of high-end stores.

I wouldn’t deny a pair of Glenys either, if you wanted to send them my way.

Or a Ferragamo handbag. Just sayin.

But the unaffordable shopping is not what we came for. We came to visit this joint: Artisanal Brasserie, sister restaurant of Park Avenue’s Artisanal Bistro in NYC.

It’s modeled after the NYC restaurant with red columns, black wicker and a mosaic tile floor. I wasn’t crazy about the decor. It seemed a little big-chain kitchy. But I didn’t hold it against them and waited to taste the food.

They score major points for having a Bar du Fromage…

…stocked with it’s own Fromagier. That’s her in the red apron.

We couldn’t resist starting with a cheese flight, so we chatted with her about what we liked and she made us some selections. Warning: lots of cheese photos ahead.

The first one we tried was a triple-cream: Pierre Robert from France. It was one of the smoothest, mildest triple-creams I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. Winner, winner, cheesy dinner.

Husband craved a creamy bleu: Fourme d’ Ambert.

It was also on the mild side for a bleu—super spreadable, but tangy and with a slight hazelnut flavor. Also a definite winner.

These next two were, obviously, hard cheeses: Hillis Peak from Oregon at the top and Fiscalini from California on the bottom. They were both delightful, but we leaned toward the Fiscalini for it’s sharp almost cheddar-like flavor.

Whew. That was a lot of cheese. Now onto the rest of the meal:

Since Artisanal was participating in Dine Around Seattle (3-course meals for $30), we each selected an appetizer. Mine was the Gnocchi Parsienne with wild mushrooms and Swiss chard. The Gnocchi was made with flour instead of potatoes, which gave it an texture similar to melted cheese. The broth-like sauce flavored with mushrooms and chard was a nice accompaniment. I could likely eat my weight in this dish.

Husband ordered the lentil soup (one of my lentil revelations) that had a nice meaty flavor and lots of texture.

It was at this point in the meal when I truly noticed the exceptional service: our waiter was essentially waiting for us to need something, hands folded behind his back standing in the corner. Not in a creepy, overbearing way—just attentive, efficient and hospitable service. Two thumbs up from this picky, picky diner.

Okay, it may have helped a little that I was toting a huge camera, snapping photos of everything that came my way, and asking questions like my waiter was the oracle. But all the other tables around us received the same great service.

For an entree, I went with the hangar steak and french fries. It was essentially a nice cut of meat smeared with herbed butter. Nothing spectacular, but good. The fries were okay. I feel like if you’re an upscale restaurant and want to go the fry route, make them exceptional.

Husband was the winner of the entrees: lamb ragout served over handmade noodles. The lamb was tender, the tomato sauce superb, and the handmade noodles were insanely tasty.

My birthday dessert? Creme brulee. A perfectly crisp layer of carmalized sugar covering a lovely vanilla custard.

Very, very creamy and not at all gelatin-y, as inferior creme brulees tend to be.

They may have put a few vanilla beans in the custard. Just sayin.

My better half went with chocolate mousse. Cute, eh?

And tasty. I love when restaurants go with traditional desserts but do them exceptionally well, as was the case at Artisanal.

All in all? I would definitely make the trek across the water again. I’m psyched to try out their regular, non-Dine Around Seattle menu. And the cheese bar…oh, the cheese bar. It almost made me want to become a Fromagier.

Have a lovely Saturday! I’ll be indoors taking care of a drugged-up husband and a ferocious little bear.

-RDG