Monday, November 21, 2011

Fall Food Bargain Madness: My Seattle Restaurant Week & Dine Around Seattle Experiences

First things first, I need to apologize for not blogging for three months! I have been ungodly busy with work and moving (more on that later) and I can't believe that it has been so long. My friend, Erin, facebooked me this morning to say I needed to blog more and I realized that I have a ton of material and it's a slow pre-Thanksgiving week . . . so, why not start again now? Here goes . . .

So, twice a year every year Seattle holds 'Seattle Restaurant Week' (SRW from now on) where over 100 restaurants participate in creating a 3-course prix fixe menu available Sunday-Thursday for $15 lunch portions or $28 dinner portions. Dinner reservations are very hard to come by during this time period, but if you can get in then you will be delighted. Restaurant Week is a great way to try out 'special occasion' type restaurants on the cheap to expand your repertoire and break your rut without threatening your pocketbook for a potentially disappointing meal. This year fall restaurant week was held October 16th to the 27th and I had just enough time to try out two well known Queen Anne establishments before my big move out of the neighborhood on October 25th.

As you may have guess by the photo above the first restaurant that I tried out was Crow (823 5th Avenue N, Seattle 98109 or www.eatatcrow.com). My friend, Alexandra, and I decided to go out to dinner and catch up. She suggested we go to Crow because it was Restaurant Week and she had been there before and the food was amazing. We walked from upper Queen Anne to the restaurant (about a 30 minute walk) to combat the large amount of calories that we would consume at dinner that night and thank God because I definitely indulged!


Fried Green Tomato 'Caprese Salad' with Tomato Jam

For my first course at Crow, I decided to try the fried green tomato 'caprese salad' with tomato jam. I never had any desire to try fried green tomatoes in my life (maybe the movie ruined it for me, I don't know) but since it was Restaurant Week, I thought "what the hell?" Boy am I glad that I branched out because they were delicious. I would absolutely go back to Crow just to eat this appetizer, and that is all I would need to eat because I was full after the first course! The dish was almost like a light, crisp version of chicken parmesan. I need to learn to make this at home. Alex had cauliflower curry soup for her first course, which I tried, and it was quite good as well. It tasted fresh, light and fabulous.

House Lasagne

My second course at Crow was their house lasagne. The lasagne was rich and cheesy and I didn't even come close to finishing my plate. Those of you who know me won't believe that I am saying this, but: it was actually a bit too cheesy for me (gasp!). If they had cut down the ricotta mixture a bit I would have like it much better, but it was still darn good. Alex had some sort of boar pasta (I think) for her second course and she seemed to enjoy it a lot as well.

Mexican Chocolate Mousse Cake

For the dessert course I chose the mexican chocolate mousse cake and (despite the fact that I was stuffed with fried green tomatoes and lasagne) I couldn't help myself and I ate the whole thing. I did share a bite or two with Alex, but this cake was the real deal. Toe curling, I believe is the phrase that I used. Alex ordered a caramel apple dessert that was also quite good and very unique.

Would I go back to Crow? Definitely. Would I spend the money to go back during non-Restaurant Week pricing? Yes. The food was unique and tasty and I felt like I got a complete steal for $28 during Restaurant Week.

How To Cook A Wolf's Dining Room

On to my second, and less successful, SRW experience at How to Cook a Wolf (2208 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle 98109 or www.ethanstowellrestaurants.com). How to Cook a Wolf is one of four of Ethan Stowell's restaurants in Seattle, which probably puts him second only to Tom Douglas as far as Seattle 'celebrity chefs' go. So, when Matt's birthday came around on the 24th, I was thrilled when he asked me to take him to Wolf for his birthday dinner. Unfortunately, we were unable to get a reservation until 9 pm (even though I made the reservation 3 weeks in advance!) and ended up having to have an evening snack before we even left for the restaurant.

You may notice that I have no pictures of the food at Wolf. This is because I forgot my actual camera with a flash and it was so stinking dark in the dining room that I was unable to get any decent pictures with my iPhone. Anyway, we both opted for cocktails and the SRW menu for our Wolf experience. For our first course Matt ordered chicken liver mousse crostini and I ordered the butternut squash soup. I ordered the squash soup because I had been craving it like crazy since fall hit this year. Unfortunately, the soup was bland and a bit grainy and nothing I would ever order again. I barely finished half the bowl and that was with Matt sampling some of it. Matt ate all of his chicken liver mousse things, but I had one bite and that was enough for me. However, whipped up bird organ is not really my thing on principle . . . it may have been great, but I have a huge mental block about that stuff (bleh).

For our second course I ordered potato gnocchi and Matt ordered the spaghetti. I have to say the spaghetti was quite good: very hearty, rustic and flavorful. I kept stealing more and more of it off Matt's plate (poor guy). My gnocchi were quite good as well, but as with many gnocchi dishes made at the hands of sous chefs they were a bit dense and gummy . . . WAH Wah wah. The gnocchi sauce was amazing and it had a fried duck egg on top that you cut up and let the yolk mix with the sauce. Delightful. Our second course experience at Wolf was definitely the highlight of the evening.

For dessert, we asked the waiter (who was very friendly and nice, but kept forgetting about us) to bring just one selection because we were so stuffed. Sadly, I can't remember what exactly we ordered a panna cotta of some sort . . . but clearly not something that rocked my world.

The wait staff did bring the dessert out with a candle (since I tipped them off about Matt's birthday) and the waiter also gave us one of Matt's cocktails for free since it took over 20 minutes for him to bring it out. So, the service was good in the sense that the wait staff was thoughtful and friendly, but bad in the sense that they were clearly beyond busy and understaffed.

Would I go back to How to Cook a Wolf? Sure, but only for their pasta dishes. Would I go back during non-SRW pricing? Maybe, but just because Wolf's SRW prices aren't really that much lower than their regular prices. Next year I am taking Matt somewhere more tried and true for his birthday dinner though, that much is for sure.


In November Seattle also has a much smaller (30 restaurant) SRW-esque event called Dine Around Seattle (DAS from now on). Basically the same deal as SRW except that it runs the entire month of November Sunday to Thursday and dinner portions are $30, not $28. For our staff 'holiday lunch' at work this year my boss took us all out to Barolo (1940 Westlake Avenue, Seattle 98101 or www.baroloseattle.com) for lunch and Barolo happened to be participating in DAS. I had been to Barolo many times for their amazing happy hour, but never for a meal so I was excited to try it out.

Leek Puree Soup with Black Truffle

For my first course at Barolo I tried the leek puree soup with black truffle. Meh, it was okay. Clearly the 'black truffle' came mostly from an over pour of black truffle oil on the top of the soup. This made the soup much too oily and completely over powered the delicate flavor of the leek in the soup. I did not finish this course and I would not order it again.

Salmon with pomegranate and cucumber salad

Fortunately, Barolo was able to redeem themselves with the second course. The salmon was perfectly cooked, moist and flavorful. The garnish was fresh and had an unexpected pop of sweetness from the pomegranate seeds and a great crunch from the cucumber. The sauce was buttery and savory . . . all in all a tasty, well balanced dish. I could have eaten two of the portions they gave me!

Chocolate Cake

The dessert at Barolo was quite yummy as well, but due to the $15 DAS lunch price the portion was teeny tiny. The whole cake that they gave me was no bigger than a Reese's peanut butter cup and was just about as unique and memorable as one as well. It was good, it was tummy, but it didn't blow my mind.

Would I go back to Barolo? Sure, for Happy Hour which I have loved for the past several years. Would I go back during non-DAS pricing? Probably not, the salmon dish gave me hope but the mediocrity of the soup and the dessert really turned me off. Too bad too because I was really hoping to love this restaurant to pieces.

On to a more personal topic . . . at the end of October I officially moved out of my little 'single lady' apartment in Queen Anne and into a larger condo in Greenwood with Matt. I am really happy with the move so far and extremely happy to be living with/sharing life with Matt. We have been exploring the neighborhood little by little and I am looking forward to giving more restaurant reviews in the Greenwood/Green Lake area. Every Saturday we have walked around Green Lake in the morning and it looks like there are a lot of fantastic little places to try around that area. There is a cupcake shop called Cake Envy that I want to try out next weekend after our walk.

The Blu Water bistro is also right off Green Lake and my friend, Lalaneya, and I went there for dinner two weeks ago when she came to visit me and see the new place. I had a burger and french onion soup (see pic below). The soup was awesome, the burger . . . not so much, but it has been great to start exploring the new neighborhood! I'll try and keep everyone up-to-date much more often now that I am settled in my new home.

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

French Onion Soup and Burger at the Blu Water Bistro