Monday, March 28, 2011

Citrus On Lake Union: A Haven for Douche Bags

Entrance of Citrus on Lake Union (1001 Fairview Ave N, Seattle 98109 or citrusseattle.com)
As most of my readers may have noticed, when I try a new restaurant I usually try to highlight the positive aspects of my experience and give a balanced review. However, once in a blue moon I come upon a place that is so utterly distasteful and ungodly awful that I have nothing but venom to spew and my experience on Saturday night at Lake Union's newest "hot spot" (ha!), Citrus, has earned distinct honor of being awarded this special place in my heart and on my blog.

I really don't know what I was expecting from Citrus, but it certainly wasn't the "Calling all Ed Hardy, bedazzled t-shirt wearing, tasteless loser douche bags!" vibe that I got from the moment I walked in the door and was greeted by the air head hostess. As you can tell from the photos above, the decor in Citrus is exactly what the Jersey Shore house in Miami wanted to be . . . all black, horrible neon lights everywhere, rainfall glass panels throughout and tons of TVs (but in no predictable, sports bar-esque arrangement, just lots of improperly placed TVs). The place literally LOOKED like it should reek of hair gel, bronzer, Valtrex and shame. Disgusting.

On to the next thing I hated, the service. I made a reservation over the phone for 6:30 pm and the hostess that I spoke to made it seem like they would be just PACKED for the evening and she was doing me a real favor by 'squeezing' me in. We arrived at the restaurant at 6:35 and the place was virtually empty. I checked in with the hostess and she asked me if I had a reservation.

I looked at her quizzically, looked around the restaurant and said, "Yes, I do, but it doesn't appear that I really need one."

She told me that I definitely did need one because they just had tons, and tons of reservations coming in shortly. Then she proceeds to tell me that she has to check with her manager to find out where exactly to sit us as to not mess up the manager's 'seating chart' (bear in mind that there are literally 35 tables open at this point). So, we wait and wait and wait until the manager comes back from (what I am guessing was) a cigarette break. The hostess asks her where she could possibly seat us (imagine me rolling my eyes) and the manager looks at her weird and says "where ever" . . . we waited 10 minutes for a manager to tell her idiot hostess "where ever". Ugh. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

At this point, I needed a drink to chill out and promptly ordered what looked like a promising prospect: the lychee fruit martini. When my drink arrived I took one sip and all I could taste was fruity syrup, no alcohol taste what-so-ever. I asked Matt to try it, to see if he could detect anything to indicate that the drink had lost its' virginity, and he couldn't taste any booze either. It was one of the worst drinks I have ever had in my entire life. I would have done better drinking canned pear juice with a splash of vodka. Due to my less than stellar cocktail experience, Matt decides to go with the old standby, bourbon on the rocks. His 'bourbon' came, in a SHOT GLASS which was totally filled with ICE and a splash of booze . . . they charged us $10 for this mess. Where the eff are we? Canada? Oh no, we are in cheap douche bag hell.

On to the food, which after our drinks, I was quite nervous about ordering. So I decided to go with a dish that is virtually impossible to foul up: kobe sliders and fries. My sliders were fine, I ate them all, but I could have walked over to Joey's and ordered sliders that are GREAT for the exact same price. Knowing this, why would I ever come here again?

Matt was a bit more brave than me and ordered the pork ossabucco. Matt's entree arrived and it looked like a Fred Flinstone, greasy, pterodactyl leg (complete with bone and all) on a plate. Seriously, this would have put the giant diner ribs that knock over the Flinstone's foot-powered car to shame! This may have been the best part of the whole experience because it amused me so much. He barely ate half of the plate and was finished, apparently it did not taste as amusing as it looked.

To top everything off the clientele matched the decor quite well. I had to listen to a leather skinned, fake blond, badly dressed valley girl go on and on and on LOUDLY to a guy (undoubtedly it was their second or third date) about how she came from a place where looks were so important (duh honey! everyone comes from that place . . . it's one of the perils of living in America), but it was okay because she was always SUCH a pretty girl. Yeah, after listening to her shout this at her date for 10 minutes my sliders and syrup drink started to rise in my throat and I knew that we needed to leave immediately.

Long story short, Don't. Go. To. Citrus. Ever. Unless maybe you are 21 years old, have a VERY low alcohol tolerance and are dreaming of meeting your ideal gorilla juicehead . . . in that case, Citrus is the perfect place for you.

Oh, and by the way, when we left an HOUR later the restaurant was still totally empty.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Girls' Weekend Mac & Cheese

So, for quite a while now I have been on a search for a creamy homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. I have made several baked macaroni recipes that were just too dry and didn't give my grown up "I grew up on boxed Kraft mac & cheese" palate the creaminess it was looking to taste.
When I got my Food & Wine magazine this month it had a recipe for "Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Cheese Crisps". This recipe included a substantial amount of mascarpone cheese, so I knew the title wouldn't be deceiving. (Here is the recipe, in case you are curious: www.foodandwine.com/recipes/stovetop-mac-and-cheese-with-cheese-crisps ).

Anyway, I decided the perfect time to try this recipe would be this last weekend when Matt was out of town and Lalaneya and I were having a girls' weekend. I stopped by Whole Foods on my way home from work on Friday and picked up the best quality cheeses I could find. Then I started shredding and working away to have the mac at least partially done when Lalaneya arrived. She arrived about half way through the shred fest and helped me with the rest of the recipe. The whole process took about 45 minutes, which isn't bad at all considering how long other mac and cheese recipes have taken me to prepare in the past.

We finally sat down to enjoy with our glasses of white wine and the mac and cheese was EXTREMELY creamy and very rich, bordering on too heavy. We each ate one medium sized bowl and we were stuffed to capacity. The best part of the recipe is the cheese crisps. They take the place of the traditional bread crumbs, except they are much more flavorful and don't create any unnecessary dryness like bread crumbs do sometimes.

I will definitely make this recipe again, except I think next time I will get more creative with the seasonings than the recipe suggests . . . perhaps adding some garlic and dry white wine to the roux mixture before I turn it into a cheese sauce. I would also probably reduce the amount of mascarpone cheese in the recipe to about 65%, just to eliminate the heaviness. Overall, this is a good recipe and I would suggest it for people who want a gourmet, grown up version of mac and cheese with the creaminess of Kraft but without all the artificial flavors and harmful preservatives.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Late Night Dinner at Toulouse Petit

Me and my hurricane at Toulouse
On Friday night Matt and I had dinner at Toulouse Petit on Queen Anne (601 Queen Anne Avenue N, Seattle 98119 or www.toulousepetit.com). I had been wanting to go to this particular restaurant ever since it opened about a year ago, but it never really worked out until last weekend. Of course, our timing couldn't have been worse since it is currently Mardi Gras and this is a creole/cajun restaurant. So a table was nearly impossible to come by and we had to settle for a 9 pm dinner reservation because that was literally the earliest available table.

When we got to Toulouse at precisely 9 pm on the dot we still had to wait for 10 minutes for our table to be ready, but it gave us a chance to look at all the Mardi Gras fanfare they had on display. The candles that line the walls (which are normally plain white tea lights) were purple, green and gold. There was a giant mask on the wall and all of the servers were wearing masks. There were purple, green and gold beads and balloons everywhere . . . let's just say they were quite festive.

Finally, the hostess told us our table was ready and gave us menus. The menu at Toulouse is overwhelming to say the least! It is 8 pages long and extremely eclectic. It took us about 15 minutes to look over the whole thing and get an idea of what we wanted. I asked the waitress for recommendations as well, but she was useless . . . "Oh, everything is SO good. You'd be happy with anything you order." Hmmm, we're already here, so there is no need for your generic marketing: for the love of GOD just give me a damn recommendation. I absolutely hate servers who are so laissez-faire about their jobs that they can't take a moment to rack their brains and help out a customer. Enough of my rant for now though.

We started by ordering hurricanes, which I had the week before when we came here for drinks. The hurricanes at Toulouse are a boutique version of the New Orleans, Pat O'Brien's original. The original hurricane is essentially fruit punch kool-aid and a TON of rum, and is quite tasty. Toulouse's version is a mixture of real fruit juices and rum, is also quite delicious, and won't turn your tongue an unnatural shade of ruby red (which, for me, is a plus).
Hurricanes!
Next, after much debate between the two of us we ordered appetizers. We ordered the sinister shrimp and the steak tartare (see photos below). My favorite of the two was the sinister shrimp. They were very spicy as the name would suggest, but they came with this wonderful, smokey, creamy, chipotle sauce that was so good I almost wanted to lick it off the plate. Since licking the plate is frowned upon in polite company I restrained myself, but wow was it yummy! The steak tartare was good, but it's not really my thing. Matt loves it so he really wanted to order it. He really loved it and ate most of it. I thought it was fun that they left the over easy yolk in the shell and presented it to us. My favorite part of this dish was the gravy-like sauce on the side. It was really spectacular, and went very well with the steak.

I will say that the actual steak was a bit grey in color, which suggests to me that it wasn't freshly cut and had been sitting a bit too long. The tartare tasted fine, but the discoloration left me a bit afraid that we might get sick later . . . we were both totally fine, but one shouldn't have to worry about this sort of thing at an upscale restaurant.
Sinister Shrimp
Steak Tartare
Now came the very daunting task of choosing our entrees. I chose the butternut squash and white truffle risotto, which Matt picked out of the whole menu as what I would order before I even told him. He is getting good at predicting my menu choices; maybe I am getting a bit too predictable. He ordered the cajun meatloaf, which I actually considered ordering myself, but it seemed like a bit too much protein for me at that time of the evening (see photos of entrees below). I really liked my risotto, but I have to say that I didn't really get any butternut squash flavor out of it, which was a bit strange for me. It was creamy and decadent and definitely truffled, but no butternut squash. The mushrooms in it were divine and added a great flavor. I would definitely order this dish again. Matt's meatloaf was amazing. It was spicy and flavorful and the potatoes that came with were creamy and delicious. Next time we go to Toulouse (which will hopefully be MUCH earlier in the evening) I am ordering the meatloaf!
Cajun Meatloaf

Butternut Squash & White Truffle Risotto

Overall Toulouse Petit was fun and had great food. However, if I could make one change it would be that they edit their menu down a bit: take 15 things you do GREAT and throw out the rest. The prices at Toulouse weren't too steep either. Our bill came to just under $100 (without tip) and we got a LOT of food and a great night on the town for that price, which, in Seattle is a steal.

We'll go back to Toulouse for sure, but the next time will be for brunch (which I hear is fabulous). I checked out the menu and they have a bananas foster french toast, which looks heavenly . . . I'll find out and report back!