weekend eats

Hanky Panky

Last weekend involved two different trips down to Seattle to have dinner with friends. I only took a few pictures, but both dinners were notable.

The first night we started out with drinks at Canon (which was inexplicably empty despite the Cinco de Mayo madness going on in every other bar in town). I tried one of the aged cocktails, and was surprised to have it served in its own little flask. I felt rather foolish drinking from a bottle, but it was a great cocktail. Two of our party ordered the “shrouded roulette,” where you request your base spirit and the bartender makes up something for you. I hadn’t realized they wouldn’t tell you what was in it even after you were finished. Sneaky.

small plates at Quinn's

After drinks we walked down to Quinn’s for dinner, and the four of us shared a bunch of small plates. I’ve never gotten to try this many things at once at Quinn’s, and as usual it did not disappoint. We started with stewed oxtail with a bone marrow custard and a dish of excellent olives (not pictured), then had a green salad with scallion aioli, pig face nuggets, and a really delicious plate of sockeye salmon lox with steelhead roe and grilled bread. I would have been delighted to have a whole plate of the salmon to myself – the roe in particular was addictively good. The pig face nuggets sounded more exciting than they actually were, but they were unctuously porky and the sauce was delicious.

small plates at Quinn's

We had to get the wild boar sloppy joe, which was as wonderful as we remembered, and we also tried the cotechino sausage with cassoulet. It was very good, but maybe better suited for a cooler evening. I took a bite of the grilled fresno chile that came with the sloppy joe and nearly had the top of my head come off.

dessert at Quinn's

Some of our party had room for dessert. One of us got butterscotch custard, served in its own tiny jar, another ordered orange cake with Sichuan pepper ice cream, and the third got a chocolate peanut butter torte. I finished my beer and called it good.

sausage-rapini pizza

The next night we found ourselves at Via Tribunali pizza in Fremont with a large party. I’d never been here before and it was excellent.

The pizza is nicely charred and very, very thin. It comes uncut, so you can make the slices any size or shape you want. I got the salsiccia rapini – tomato sauce, Italian sausage and rapini (broccoli rabe) – one of my favorite Italian flavor combos.

pizza

Jon got the Via Tribunali house special, which is sort of an Everything pizza with the edges folded in on itself. Just a hint of smoked cheese gave it a distinctive character.

Great place! We’ll definitely be back to try more pizza, some salads and perhaps some tiramisu. Soon.

via tribunali

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another day, another lamb burger

lamb burger

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.

window table

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.

beer list

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.

fish n chips

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.

lamb burger

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.

not all that exciting a lunch

oyster po-boy

Ever have a restaurant experience that, while not at all bad, somehow wasn’t all that good either? There was absolutely nothing wrong with the lunch we got at the Fish Tale Brewpub in Everett, but we still don’t think it likely we’ll go back. This makes me sad, since I liked the one in Olympia so much.

It’s partly the decor, frankly. I saw this mentioned on nearly every Yelp review about the brewpub, and it’s true – the place is dark, uncomfortable and strange. The main dining space feels like the breakfast room in the basement of a cheap hotel, while the sunny window in the front hosts nary a table. Did these people never hear that a pub is supposed to be cozy?

Then the food, about which I’m not really sure what to think. I got an oyster po’boy and a Caesar salad. There were lots of oysters – too many, actually, I couldn’t close the bun enough to take a bite – and the bun was a pleasant enough sourdough. But the condiment was a mean smear of mayo (maybe it was aioli, I could hardly taste it) and a small handful of greens. The Caesar seemed fresh but the dressing had almost no flavor at all. I got bored before I got full.

lamb burger & fries

Jon got the lamb burger, on the extremely enthusiastic recommendation of the waitperson. It was…meh. It mostly tasted of feta, and the meat was overcooked and rather dry, despite having a dollop of tzatziki on top. The fries were the soft kind, which I realize is a style but it’s not our favorite. Not the worst lamb burger we’ve tried, but not even in the top ten.

winterfish ale

Oh, well. The beer was excellent.

brunch, burgers and booze

breakfast mac and cheese

The new issue of Cascadia Weekly just came out today, with a restaurant review of Sunday brunch at the Brown Lantern, written by me. I particularly wanted to talk about their breakfast mac and cheese, which is a thing of beauty and great substance (read: calories). I had to refresh my memory before writing the article, of course, so we went back recently with some friends. I believe we were all slightly hungover, as befits this sort of breakfast, and it was incredibly satisfying. Here are a few extra photos from our outing:

Brown Lantern

The decor above the bar at the Brown Lantern is fascinating – always something to look at. I’d like to hear the story behind the inflatable shark.

the Lantern breakfast

The Lantern Standard breakfast. It really was too bad about the undercooked bacon, but the tater tots were excellent. I like tater tots. Almost as much as I like mac and cheese.

biscuits and gravy

This was the biscuits and gravy. One of the ugliest platefuls I’ve ever seen, but it tasted great and there was plenty of gravy.

breakfast mac and cheese

I barely made any visible dent in my breakfast. And yet I was very, very full. I’m still impressed after watching a member of our party eat an entire plate of this.

Anyone had the breakfast burrito there?

the Dray

The DrayThe Dray
The DrayThe Dray

It’s always nice to find a new place to drink beer. Not that we have any lack of beer up here in Mount Vernon, but when you’re in need of a place to hang out in the Ballard/Greenwood/Fremont area of Seattle it’s handy to find a good casual beer joint. The Dray on 65th Street is that sort of place – lots of regulars, warm wood walls and fixtures, soccer on the TV at all times, a short sandwich menu, and a really fine selection of beers on draft. The first time we stopped in they had Pliny the Elder, a hard-to-find IPA from Russian River that tends to disappear fast wherever it crops up, despite its slightly high price tag. Last time I was there I had a Green Flash Hop Head Red, an extremely excellent beer for those of us with a taste for the bitter. And they also had the Weed IPA, which I haven’t ever seen outside of the Weed Alehouse. The kegs change pretty briskly, from what I’ve seen, so you never know what you might be able to get there.

Also, there’s a squirrel on the wall of the bathroom. You might want to see it first while sober, so it doesn’t take you by surprise later.

Brown Lantern

Brown Lantern

I’m deeply embarrassed that we’ve lived in Skagit County for thirteen years now and have never been to the Brown Lantern Ale House in downtown Anacortes. In my defense, I have to say I’d been mixing it up with the Watertown Pub, which was not thrilling the one time we went, and we’ve usually just ended up going to the Rockfish. But better late than never: we have now rectified the situation. The only question now is how soon we can get back there.

Whistle Lake

We had gone for a hike in the Anacortes Community Forestlands (a wonderful park full of trails and lakes), and had worked up a good appetite. We thought about driving around the island to try out the Shrimp Shack, but I had just read yet another rave about the Brown Lantern on Chowhound and wanted to try it while I was thinking about it. It was open, there was a free table in the window – perfect.

Brown Lantern

The Brown Lantern is an old pub – I think the sign said it was started up in the ’30s – and has a comfortably dark and rustic feel, with lots of sports stuff stapled to the ceiling. It also has one of the best stocked bars I’ve seen in this county.

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Empire Ale House

Empire Ale House

As you may or may not know, April is a time of great confusion and rejoicing in the Skagit Valley, being the time of the Skagit Tulip Festival. What this means is that there are a few weeks of blissful quiet while the daffodil fields bloom (why does everyone ignore the daffodils?), then a weekend or two of complete mayhem when the tulips finally deign to show their colors and the tourists flock in, getting lost in downtown Mount Vernon in need of bathrooms and maps.

daffodil field (just passing by)

This particular weekend features the Tulip Festival Street Fair. They were setting up for it as I walked home today, and for the next three days we will continue to be very very glad that we live walking distance from downtown – because god help anyone who’s trying to park down there. We can also be grateful that the weather forecast is looking promising – a few years ago there was a howling windstorm that swept away the craft tents, and last year it hailed. A lot. We’re all hoping this year will be better.

Empire Ale House

If any of you are planning to come up and join in the festivities, you might wonder where there is to eat. We do have a few good places here in town, and it’s an interesting fact that most of them are pubs. Within just a few short blocks we have The Porterhouse, Trumpeter Public House, Empire Ale House, Draft Pics Sports Bar and Skagit River Brewery. Apparently you can never have too many places to drink beer. Continue reading

fish at the Fish Tale

Fish Tale Brewing

I recently returned from a short sojourn in Olympia, Washington. I was there for a conference, which involved some pretty forgettable hotel food, a lot of coffee and sugar and a surprising amount of time spent in the hotel bar. Luckily, my coworkers and I had time for one dinner on our own.

None of us knew Olympia very well, so we scanned the visitor’s guide that had come with our conference packet. The first place to catch my eye was “Dirty Dave’s Gay 90’s Pizza Parlor” – I mean, how could anyone resist that name? – but what we settled on was the Fish Tale Brewpub. I generally find that brewpubs have something for everyone, and this one was no exception. Continue reading

fresh produce, hot dogs and beer

veg

Downtown Mount Vernon had its Fall Festival this weekend, so we wandered down to check it out. This is the second year for the event, so it’s still a bit casual, but I like it: the farmer’s market moves down from the riverfront and sets up in the middle of the street downtown, plus there’s a beer garden, a car show, craft booths, several bands playing, and a grill set up for hot dogs and bratwurst. It’s all very festive.

sunflowers
veg
veg

Although the weather’s starting to get colder and fall is definitely coming, the market is still at its peak. We got some beets, potatoes, summer squash, mozzarella cheese, and cauliflower, plus a rhubarb pie. I would’ve bought some delicata squash and sugar pumpkins, but we were on foot – we’ll have to bring the car next time, or a wagon, so we can carry it all home. Continue reading

the winery dog tour

Two Mountain Winery

Two Mountain Winery

Six wineries, one brewpub, four espresso milkshakes, one musical performance, and a lot of dogs: we’re back from our trip! This was our annual trip to the Tri-Cities, ostensibly to play at an outdoor music festival, but mostly an excuse to go wine tasting.

Winegar's

Our first (very important) stop was in Ellensburg. The rodeo parade was going on, but it didn’t stop us from getting our usual round of espresso milkshakes at Winegar’s Dairy drive-thru. Who needs lunch when you can get a milkshake like that?

Two Mountain Winery

Two Mountain Winery

Two Mountain Winery

Two Mountain Winery

Our first stop, and one of our favorites, was Two Mountain Winery in Zillah. The wine was good (the Tribute was especially fabuliferous), and the dogs were adorable – especially Bentley the Basset hound (I love Basset hound ears, they’re so soft). The winery was having “Dinner and a Movie” that night, with hamburgers and fresh local corn. If it hadn’t been such a drive back from Richland that night, we would’ve been there!

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