We’ve been taking swing dance lessons in Bellingham every week, which is occasionally a fun excuse to go out for an early dinner in town. This week we decided to try the Black Cat (AKA Le Chat Noir) in Fairhaven, which recently came under new ownership and has undergone some renovation.
The Cat has always been a fun space, perched at the top of several flights of stairs with a view down Harris Street and the bay beyond, but it had a history of long waits, expensive watered-down drinks, and rather bad food. We had heard a good report of the new Cat from the staff over at The Real McCoy, and I’m happy to say we’re pleased with the reboot so far.
We tried the burger special, which had avocado and bacon jam, and the fish tacos, which were done in classic Baja style with a nice amount of cabbage and salsa. The portion size was perhaps a little small for anyone larger than me, but the fish was nicely fried. I liked it a lot. I also had a very good glass of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and Jon tried one of the house cocktails, an unusual sounding blend of Mezcal, cherry heering and a few other things. We will definitely be back, I think Le Chat is heading in the right direction.
We recently checked out the newest addition to the Bellingham brewpub scene, Aslan Brewing. I had tried a couple of their beers at the Local and was impressed – they make a very fine IPA and, as it turns out, an extremely fine OPA (Oatmeal Pale Ale). The inside of the brewpub is very open with lots of glass and other hard surfaces, and was way too loud, but the weather was mild enough for us to sit outside on the patio, which had the added benefit of lots of cute dogs.
They had poutine on the menu, so we had to try it. Theirs is a little different than the classic: waffle fries drenched in mushroom gravy, with Beechers cheese curds. Pretty great, but not for the faint of stomach.
Their menu is short but includes three burgers – a bison burger, a bison burger with blue cheese and bacon jam, and a “hypocrite burger” with a veggie patty and bacon jam. We tried the blue cheese bison, which was pleasant but overdone to the point of burnt, and not as saucy as I prefer.
To offset the poutine I ordered the kale salad, which was a pleasant surprise. Raw kale with a liberal sprinkling of pecorino, sultanas and walnuts, plus a corn muffin. This was good at the time, especially to go with the burger, but it was even better as leftovers the next day with a fried egg on top.
Nice place, interesting food options, good beer. A little off our usual path in Bellingham, but I’m guessing we’ll be back.
We finally made it up to the Green Frog this week to see Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola play. Ten particularly awesome things from the evening:
1. The way Charlie Hunter does something kick ass and mind blowing on the 7 string guitar (he does lead guitar and bass at the same time), then looks around at the audience grinning like “damn, was that cool or what?”
It was Caribbean night at supper club. The day had started unpromisingly with a dense spring snowstorm, but by evening it was clear and almost warm. We ate and drank and admired the incredible view across Bellingham Bay.
Jon mixed up a batch of Hemingway Daiquiris. I like classic daiquiris, but these are even better: tart, refreshing, and with a nice depth from maraschino and fresh grapefruit juice (recipe at the bottom of the post). Cocktail umbrellas were a must. Continue reading
February has been surprisingly busy. I have a few articles coming out in the March issue of Grow Northwest, and I’m working on two restaurant reviews. I just took down one photography show and am about to put up another. Plus my band is deep into rehearsals for Saint Patrick’s Day (come see us!) But we’ve still been shopping and cooking and eating. And, sometimes, going out because we just don’t want to cook any more.
One night we decided to try two new recipes at once from our favorite Indian cookbook, the small but mighty Madhur Jaffrey’s Spice Kitchen (seriously, there is nothing bad in this book). The spiced broccoli was very nice, but the star was the chickpeas with tomatoes, ginger and green chiles. Along with a chicken coconut vindaloo and buttermilk chapati, this was a killer dinner.
We finally got around to visiting the Copper Hog pub in Bellingham. Not a bad place at all! Large and bustling, nice decor, lots of natural light, and alarmingly polite service. Good food and beer, too. It made an especially strong impression on us after our disappointment with the Fish Tale Brewpub a couple of weeks ago.
For one thing, we got to sit by a window.
The view was made extra amusing by the fact that some sort of commercial was being filmed on the premises, and groups of people wearing sports scarves were running around screeching for the camera. Even without that, though, it was a nice place to sit.
The beer selection here is pretty ace. I tried the “Copper Hog Red” made by Flyers in Oak Harbor, and really liked it. Dry and bitter, but with lots of flavor.
It was a forgone conclusion that one of us would get the lamb burger, and Jon won the draw. I got the fish and chips instead, and was happy enough. I was a little put out by the size of the fish fillet – most places would have cut this into two or three pieces. It was so big, and so blazingly hot, I had to eat it with knife and fork, which seemed kind of silly. The schmear of pureed peas on the side was a peculiar but pleasant touch. And the fries were fantastic – hot, salty, nicely crispy on the outside but buttery-soft inside. And served in a reasonable quantity, so I didn’t hurt myself by eating all of them. Not too much, anyway.
The lamb burger was excellent. It was on a good bun, the meat was juicy and nicely cooked, and it had a big blob of chevre on top and a lot of pickled beets. I love pickled beets. It was by far the best lamb burger we’ve had lately.
We ran up to Bellingham again recently to do some errands on a dark and rainy day, and decided to have lunch at Flats Tapas Bar in Fairhaven. One of the things I’ve really liked about Flats is that their menu has remained very dependable over the years, and I had spent the morning planning out my order. Imagine my dismay when we discovered that they had just rewritten their menu a few weeks before, and nearly all my favorites were gone! Argh. Still, we sucked it up and tried two of the new dishes, and were pretty pleased.
The first (“Gambas”) was a saffron risotto topped with incredibly garlicky prawns in a spicy paprika-sherry sauce. It was amazing, and the prawns were fresh and tender.
The other dish (the “Mareo”) consisted of two grilled chicken skewers on a bed of black quinoa with pine nuts, raisins and serrano ham. The chicken, which was apparently marinated in cava, was tender but aggressively bland – I thought they might do better with a brine. The quinoa was also restrained in its seasoning. The ham was crispy and made a great contrast, but couldn’t quite carry the whole plate. We might have liked this dish better if it had been served before the prawns, but the quietness of its flavors really suffered in comparison.
The real problem with a small-plates place like this changing their menu is that we no longer know how much food to expect with each plate, so it will take some trial and error before we know how to build a really satisfying meal here again (these two dishes weren’t quite enough food for the two of us). The new chef here is doing some nice work, I hope that eventually I will have the same feel for her cooking as I had for the previous chef’s.
Our soccer team got thoroughly stomped in Bellingham last weekend, so we went to two of our favorite places to cheer ourselves up.
Since our local farmer’s market doesn’t start for another month, we drove up to Bellingham last week to see how their market was doing. Man! I have serious market envy. Not that I don’t love ours, of course, but wow.
Covering a large parking lot as well as filling the big permanent covered area the city built, the market is thriving, not just with local fresh vegetables and crafts, but food carts, plants, bread, meat, clothing and henna tattoo artists. Instead of a main stage, they have the old-fashioned approach of letting acoustic musicians set up in the intersections. A hula-hoop area is set up on one side for the amusement of limber youth, and the goat-with-a-cart sculpture on the corner is constantly beset by children. People are everywhere, shopping and visiting and hula-hooping and eating.
I don’t know whether to be delighted or annoyed: delighted that such a good restaurant exists so close by, or annoyed that it’s been there so long without us knowing about it. How could such a thing happen?
In an unlikely little strip mall in downtown Bellingham, there used to be a restaurant called Wild Garlic. It wasn’t bad, but we didn’t often go unless we had a particular need for large plates of pasta in garlicky cream sauce. The grapevine let me know when it closed, but I never heard that anything had taken its place.
Then a little while ago, some friends of ours went to an event at a place called the Prospect Street Cafe. Continue reading