Bistro Zazou

bistro zazou

 Edit: I just found out last week that Bistro Zazou has closed. Alas. 3/18/08

One of our favorite restaurants in Bellingham used to be the Calumet, until one day we headed there for my birthday dinner and it had gone out of business. We ended up discovering Flats as a result, so we ended up happy that day, but we continued to walk sadly by the old location. The last time we did, though, we saw that a new place had arisen – Bistro Zazou – a French bistro! We’re very partial to casual French restaurants, since we hiked our way through the Vaucluse in 2004, so we try to check out any place that looks like it might have that certain vibe. We finally got there this weekend, and while it didn’t quite live up to my (admittedly high) expectations, I’m happy to have this little slice of France somewhat nearby.

The space is warm and inviting, with lots of mirrors and black and white photographs. The table we ended up at (after I asked to not be seated right next to a table full of young children) was next to a small gas-fire stove, so it was fairly cozy. We ordered cocktails and studied the menu hard. Continue reading

Cookbook: Madhur Jaffrey's Spice Kitchen

Madhur Jaffrey’s Spice Kitchen

This little book is a powerhouse of Indian cooking. It’s small, it doesn’t lie flat, it has no pictures (except a few line drawings), and it’s far from comprehensive, but this one book revolutionized Indian food for us. Not right away, though.

It was a gift from a friend many years ago, after I had already given J a copy of Yamuna Devi’s Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, and we felt (rather smugly) that we had everything we needed for cooking Indian food. But if you’ve ever used the Devi book, you may have noticed that her ingredient lists are enormous, her instructions are tiresomely exact, and she puts a somewhat intimidating weight on the history and context of the food. We had the book, but I mostly used it to make flatbread and hot yogurt drinks to go with our Patak’s Curry Paste concoctions. Spice Kitchen sat on our shelf, unappreciated.

Then one day we opened it. Continue reading

Review: Tilth


 I want to like Tilth, really I do. It’s not really the restaurant’s fault that it replaced one of my favorite places in Seattle, Mandalay Cafe. I try not to get upset about what they did with the decor. And I like the premise of all organic, all local food with a small plates/large plates option. But after two visits I just can’t see going back.

The first time was a while ago, shortly after the restaurant opened. It was a weekend in early summer, and J and I went for brunch. We weren’t really in the mood for breakfast food, so we both ordered the croque monsieur with a side salad, and glasses of red wine. We were seated at a nice table, the service was polite, and the sandwiches were tasty if not exceptional. But the room was freezing – I ended up wearing my wool coat, a wool hat and my scarf while I ate. The wine was cold, too, just from being in the room, and the salad was a rather dull pile of fresh greens with very little dressing. We felt depressed and uninspired. Continue reading

Star Bar revisited

vesper martini 

I wrote an account of our visit to Star Bar, a new restaurant in Anacortes, a few weeks ago. I will certainly admit that events were not optimal for enjoyment at the time, what with us and our friends being a bit stressed out and our waitress being a bit novice. I thought the food was good and had promise, but I was not blown away. Now I have been.

Last Friday after work we felt like going out. Mount Vernon doesn’t have a lot of good options for after-work drinks (besides the Porterhouse and the Brewery, of course, but they don’t do hard likker), and we remembered admiring the lounge area at Star Bar, so out to Anacortes we went.

Continue reading

A day in Vancouver

I had a birthday recently, and to finish off the celebrations we decided to take a day trip up to Vancouver, B.C. – something we like to do every now and again as a change from Seattle. We headed out around 9 am and had a relatively uneventful border crossing, picked up a few important items in South Granville (Lothantique green tea soap, crucial to gracious living) and attempted to get lost in south downtown looking for our lunch restaurant, Fiddlehead Joe’s. Amazingly enough, we found free parking and the restaurant in plenty of time for our reservation.

Fiddlehead Joe’s

I had heard on Chowhound that this place did a great brunch, and it was pretty darn good. The day was blustery, cold and wet, but the big windows looked out to False Creek and the Granville Island Market, the food was good and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I had the salmon hash, which was a sort of do-it-yourself affair with a pile of fried potatoes, a poached egg, a fillet of salmon and a drizzle of hollandaise all piled up together, with a side of sauteed fiddleheads and a roasted tomato. I mushed it all up together and it was tasty. J asked the waiter what was not to be missed, and was pointed emphatically towards the “slaughterhouse special,” which turned out to be a plate attractively piled with meat: bacon, pancetta, chorizo, a small steak, an egg and a roasted tomato.  We drank champagne cocktails and felt happy. Continue reading

Cookbook: Baking Illustrated


J and I have been religious subscribers to Cook’s Illustrated for years. We keep every issue, and occasionally drag the whole pile out and paw through it looking for that really great shrimp recipe we remember seeing – was it last month? Hmm, no, actually, it was two years ago…so we get to see all the old issues again and maybe find something new to try. And don’t get me wrong, Cook’s isn’t always perfect – they know nothing about Mexican food, and frequently their product reviews have not a single thing that’s available on the west coast. But many of their recipes have become gospel in our household, and sometimes you just want to be able to find it quickly.

Continue reading

Review: Shea's Lounge

After spending a surprising amount of time wandering around the new-and-improved Seattle Art Museum, we felt a need to go find some dinner. As the designated food obsessor, I suggested a few options, and we decided to check out Chez Shea. J and I have been to Matt’s in the Market twice before, but we’d never been to its next-door neighbor, and everyone liked the look of the bistro menu, so into Shea’s Lounge we went. This turned out to be exactly the right thing to do. Continue reading

Review: Star Bar


So we finally made it to Star Bar. Not that long ago this was a rather granola-looking smoothie place, but the last time we walked down Commercial Avenue in Anacortes we saw this slick looking restaurant and thought, “Why haven’t we eaten here?” We decided to visit as soon as we had an excuse, and decided that surviving the first week of school (for J) and surviving a week of getting their house painted (for our friends) would do. Continue reading