Saturday, September 8, 2012

Date Night at Rione XIII

Me and my gnocchi alla romana
Two weeks ago I heard that Ethan Stowell had opened up a new restaurant in Capitol Hill called Rione XII (401 15th Avenue E, Seattle 98122 or ethanstowellrestaurants.com/rionexiii/ ).  The review I read said that this restaurant was inspired by Trastevere, the 13th district in Rome, and had a more more Italian heavy menu than Stowell's other restaurants.  Matt and I hadn't been to a new restaurant in a while, so I decided to see if I could get a reservation. When I went to opentable.com I saw that there were ZERO tables open for almost a week, but there was a 7:45 pm reservation for 2 the following Friday. I booked it and we excitedly waited for a our date night the whole next week.
 
We drove out to Capitol Hill after work on Friday and drove around for no less than half an hour looking for street parking.  I love Capitol Hill but I hate the parking situation up there. You literally have to plan for an extra half hour to PARK . . . but I digress.  Anyway,  after we found a space in a nearby residential area we walked up to 15th Avenue and looked around for the restaurant.  We were a bit confused because Rione XIII was so new that it didn't even have a sign up yet. We pushed open the door, looked around timidly and decided we were probably in the right place.
 
The decor was warm and simple, lots of wood, modern hanging lamps and candles.  The hostess welcomed us and even though we were a few minutes early for our reservation, we were seated right away. We sat for a few minutes and our waitress came over with menus and helped us pick out a bottle of wine. 
 
I know a bit (not a ton, mind you) about American wine but pretty much nothing about French (chablis is chardonnay, right??) or Italian wine.  So we told her that we were looking for a nice malbec or chianti type red wine to go with the food.  She recommended what she described as a big red with a lot of 'jammy' notes.  Ok, sounds pretty good to me. She brought us a bottle of Plaza Della Torre 2008 Veronese ($42 for the bottle). The wine opened up pretty nicely, and there were fruit notes, but it was definitely a food wine. Not something you would open up and drink by itself to watch TV, but it served the purpose we needed it to.
 
Now it was time to order our meal, but it took the waitress forever to come back to our table. Lucky we had the wine to keep us company.  When she finally sauntered over we ordered a single serving of the antipasti (cheese, meat, olives, roasted veggies and some strange beet concoction), Matt ordered the bucatini amatricana, and I ordered the gnocchi alla romana.
 
We had already finished half the bottle of wine when our appetizer finally arrived.  I liked everything on it, except the beet thing (which Matt liked). Unfortunately, the menu boasted that the antipasti came with fried artichoke, which I was really looking forward to . . . when it came the artichoke was no where to be found.  I asked the waitress about it and she told me that they had replaced the fried artichoke with the beets tonight. Super.  Not a great start.
 
Then our entrees came and Matt's was a giant bowl of traditional, delicious looking bucatini and mine was a tiny plate with 6 round, french fry looking things. I guess this is the roman style of gnocchi, and I should have known better, but I was expecting little potato pillows in sauce and I got potato cylanders covered in sage and romano cheese.  Don't get me wrong, they were quite tasty, especially the crispy cheesy bits on the bottom of the plate.  I tasted Matt's and it was hearty, flavorful and a little spicy. I had serious entree envy happening.
 
Oh well, I decided that in general Matt is a better orderer at Stowell restaurants. Something very similar happened when we went to How to Cook a Wolf last year. So, the next time we go to a Stowell restaurant I am letting him order for me, because apparently I can't be trusted to order anything decent myself.  We'll see if that works out any better.
 
I ate most of my gnocchi (if you can really call it that) and was still a little hungry and thinking about that fried artichoke that I had missed out on earlier.  I decided to order a whole fried artichoke to go with my dinner, and I am so glad that I did. It was crispy, but didn't have a bunch of heavy breading.  The aoili that came with it was citrusy and delicious too. Matt even liked it and he is not the biggest artichoke fan.
 
We had finished our entrees and artichoke and still had a few swigs of wine left. So we decided to share a small bowl of chocolate gelato.  It was lovely (especially for $4) and was a nice way to wrap up the meal.
 
When our bill came, it was the best surprise of the evening.  Our grand total was only $110.  A very reasonable price for an appetizer, a bottle of wine, two entrees, a side and dessert.  For that reason alone we will go back, but this time wiser about the menu and the best things to order for a good price.  Overall a very good date night. Although, as soon as we got home we passed out because we were so full . . . but that is the hallmark of a good Italian meal if you ask me.
 

Fried Artichoke
bucatini amatricana

Sunday, July 8, 2012

90s Nostalgia Heaven at Tulalip Ampitheater

Matt and I at Tulalip Ampitheater before the concert

Boyz II Men!! Shawn Stockman, Nate Morris and Wanya Morris
About a month ago I was sitting at work in my cube having kind of a bad day and Matt sent me a text message that said, "I bought you a present. Check your email."  Hmmm, okay . . . I opened my gmail and found a message titled "For you babe ;-)" and an attachment.  I downloaded the attachment, saw that it was tickets to see (my all time favorite group . . . seriously I was OBSESSED with them in middle school) BOYZ II MEN!  I nearly fell out of my chair and shrieked so loud that the girl in the cube next to me asked if I was okay! Best. Present. Ever!!

Honestly, I usually think that women that constantly brag about their husbands/boyfriends being the 'best ever' are beyond obnoxious, but I think Matt deserves some serious props for this one. Thank you, Love!!

I know this blog isn't about food, but as I have said in the past: this blog is about anything that brings flavor to my life. Boyz II Men definitely brought the flavor! They also brought along Salt N Pepa (who Matt was the most excited to see) and En Vogue as their opening acts.  I was in 90s Nostalgia Heaven!

Also, in case you're wondering, YES I took the picture of Boyz II Men above. YES I snuck up 30 rows to get it. And YES I ran away before security could kick me out.

I took a few videos of my favorite songs that were performed at the concert. I am not the greatest videographer, especially since I was trying to dance around and avoid getting other people's heads in the shot. However, the sound quality on these videos turned out surprisingly great and I want to share them with you guys so you can have your own nostalgia moment: ENJOY!!!

video
En Vogue singing "Free Your Mind" . . . wrote a song about it, like to hear it? Here it go!

Boyz II Men singing "On Bended Knee"

Boyz II Men singing "I'll Make Love to You"


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sorry for NOT Party Rockin'

Well, I just checked on my blog for the first time in over 3 months. Whoops. All the changes in my life have, unfortunately, impacted my available internet time. I started a new job 2 months ago and have been working at home and at work pretty much non-stop. Plus, my friend Beth is getting married and I was busy co-hosting/planning her bridal shower. So much to blog, so little time.

Anyway, we have been busy working on our rooftop deck and garden. We have successfully grown tomato plants, strawberries, lavender and other assorted flowers. Lots of work, time and money (especially buying cute furniture and outdoor dishes!) have gone into this project, but yesterday we were ready to show it off a bit.

We invited a few of our friends over for an afternoon BBQ and beer pong 4th of July extravaganza. I'm pleased to report that it went very well and we had fun! The best part was NOT having to clean up the house because all the mess was on the deck. The day wasn't without casualty though, Matt got the WORST farmer sunburn I have seen in a long time and he's pretty miserable. Ahhh, summer.

Anyway, we grilled many pounds of beef and used the Williams Sonoma burger starter to season them (cheating, I know). This is an expensive but fantastic product. They also make a turkey burger starter and it is unbelievable. No more dry, tasteless turkey burgers that make you yearn for beef . . . Seriously. That is my foodie tip for this blog: use pre-made WS seasonings and make your get togethers quick and MUCH easier.

Happy summer all! Hope everyone had a fun 4th and enjoyed the sun (without suffering the same crispy skinned fare as poor Matt).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Taste Washington Experience

This will be a quick blog post because although Taste Washington (www.tastewashington.org) was a great experience, it was also VERY overwhelming and I don't think I could possibly write a specific review of everything I tasted there.

My friend Erin texted me about a month ago and asked if Matt and I would be interested in joining her for the Taste Washington event on March 31st. It sounded right up my alley and Matt never has a problem going anywhere where drinking is encouraged; so I happily agreed.

There were over 200 Washington wineries present at this event and they were all grouped regionally. So, it was like a day wine tasting in Yakima, Woodinville, Chelan and Walla Walla all wrapped into a 3 hour period. Sound overwhelming? It was. I probably tasted 20-25 wines and I remember a select few that I liked, but definitely not every single one. They didn't sell bottles at this event (which they should have!), which makes it even more difficult to remember the things you really enjoyed.

Oh well. We got quite tipsy after a few hours and in the PACKED elevator on the way out of the building Matt decided to do the 'washing machine'. Which, in case you aren't in the middle school know, is when you loudly say 'washing machine!' over and over again and spin around in place. The whole drunken elevator was laughing by the time we reached our destination. I love that man :)

The restaurants there were also quite good. The likes of Volterra, Assiaggo, Purple, The Dahlia Lounge and El Gaucho were present. However, surprisingly, the best thing I ate there the entire day was the Kalua Mahi Nachos from Anthony's at Pier 66. We had so much wine and ate so many bites that I could have eaten no dinner and been just fine.

Anyway, if you haven't been to Taste Washington before it is a great local event to check out and get your food and wine on!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bitterroot BBQ, Enchiladas & Lifestyle Happenings

A faux roasting pig greets you at the entrance to Bitterroot

Last Friday night Matt and I decided to try one of Ballard's newest restaurants, Bitterroot BBQ (www.bitterrootbbq.com or 5239 Ballard Ave Ne, Seattle 98107). We had heard wonderful things about the food at Bitterroot from our friends, but also wanted to go because Matt went to high school with one of the owner's of the restaurant. Bitterroot's website promises 4 things: BBQ. Beer. Bourbon. Ballard. and they definitely deliver on all counts!

We arrived at the restaurant at about 6 p.m. (after half an hour of looking for street parking in Ballard, I should have known . . . Ballard is always a mean bitch) and were easily able to find a seat in the bar. Everything about the bar makes you want to order comfort food and a very hard drink. The line, "can you tell me where a girl can get a hard drink in a dark bar around here?" from Sex and the City immediately popped into my mind when I sat down: so, I ordered a Manhattan. Now, I am not much of a brown liquor girl, but a good Manhattan always makes me happy. This Manhattan was on the sweet side, which I prefer, and I enjoyed it thoroughly after a very long day at work.

Upon reviewing the menu I realized that not only do they have barbecue, but they also have a mac and cheese menu. You can order a mac and cheese and choose from a variety of additions (I think there were at least 8 options) to mix and match and suit your fancy. Seeing as though I am obsessed with mac and cheese this absolutely delighted me. I ordered the mac and cheese with caramelized onions (yum) and english peas. Matt ordered beef brisket with cole slaw and corn bread.

Mac and cheese with caramelized onions and english peas


Our "hard drink in a dark bar" Manhattans

When our entrees arrived I was a bit intimidated by the enormousness of the mac and cheese bowl, but don't worry, I ate it all! The caramelized onions were absolutely fantastic and tasty. My only editorial note would be that it needed more cheese (but I say that about almost everything!). Matt's brisket smelled wonderful when it came out and I had to try a few bites. To fully appreciate how good this smelled one must understand that I HATE barbecue sauce and usually won't eat anything that contains even a hint of it. However, because I am open minded (or at least try to be) I sampled bites of the meat with 2 of the three sauces available on the table. I have to say, I may have found a barbecue sauce that I don't despise . . . in fact, I kind of liked it. It was sweet, savory and smokey and complimented the extremely tender brisket. I don't know if I am ready for a full barbecue entree yet, but I'll definitely steal a few more samplings from Matt the next time we go to Bitterroot.

Also, the next time we go, I am not driving so I can have more than one of those yummy Manhattans!

My chicken enchiladas with cilantro dinner creation

In other, non-restaurant, food related news I discovered (and modified) a new recipe that we Matt and I both love. You will need an 8" diameter non-stick, round pan, 1 large can Safeway select enchilada sauce, a pre-cooked roaster chicken, cilantro, half an onion, chicken stock, corn tortillas, monterey jack cheese and spices. All you do is sautee the chopped onion in olive oil until it starts to brown, add half a cup of chicken stock and sautee until the onion is soft and the stock has evaporated. Add the onion to about 2 cups of pre-cooked, shredded chicken with 1/8 cup chopped cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper and about a cup of monterey jack cheese. Then, fry 8 corn tortillas for ten seconds each in vegetable oil. Put 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of the round pan. Roll up about an 1/8 of the chicken mixture in each tortilla and place (seam down) in the pan. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the tortillas to coat evenly and top with another cup of cheese. Cover with foil. Cook for 22 minutes on 350, remove foil and return to oven for another 23 minutes. Top with sour cream and more cilantro leaves and serve with beans and rice. A very easy but fabulous dinner for two that will last at least two nights. Be warned though, once you start eating it is hard to stop after one portion!

Now on to the really fun news! Matt and I got our first pet together! Last Saturday we went to Target to buy some closet organizers (more on that later) and noticed that the Petco next door was having a doggie rescue/adoption day. We both want to get a dog, so we decided to go look at the adoptable dogs and somehow we ended up buying a fish . . . we decided a fish would be a good 'trial run'/first step in getting a more demanding pet. Anyway, we named her Coco (after Ice T's wife) because she is golden and very voluptuous. Plus, we love their silly reality show. Below is a picture of our little Coco in her fishy condo (which we thought was the cutest thing ever when we saw it at Kasala a few months back). We have had her a week now and hopefully she'll continue to thrive in our care.

Coco the goldfish in her 'condo'

Our closet with the new chandelier

We have been in our new condo for 4 months now, but we are still settling in, re-organizing and decorating. My latest project, inspired by the HGTV show 'Property Brothers' and the Style network show 'The Amanda's", is re-organizing and decorating our closet. Now, some may wonder: why the hell do you need to decorate a closet?!? Well, I need to decorate our closet because it is HUGE and full and quite unfortunately has NO DOORS. On top of that it is the first thing you see when entering our bedroom and therefore it can't look a mess. I really wanted to create a closet that would be pretty enough to not need doors (and pretty enough to inspire us NOT to throw our clothes all over the floor). I am planning to do this by color coding our clothes, putting everything not hangable in black and white storage bins, hanging a very stylish chandelier and putting a fluffy sheep skin rug on the floor.

So far the project is coming along pretty well. I have about half of the storage bins complete and organized and yesterday the chandelier was delivered and WE (yes, Matt and I, ourselves) assembled and installed it in the closet. I am quite proud of the fact that we didn't need to call an electrician, but setting up a new light fixture was much more difficult than I anticipated . . . 4 hours and many, many swear words and start overs later we finished. Oh well. If you never try, you'll never know what you can really do yourself. I think everyone should try a little DIY, you may just surprise yourself!

I'll post pictures of the final product once I finish. It is so fun to see your ideas come to life!


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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Great New Recipe! Crab Bread Pudding

This past weekend I tried out a new recipe for a Seafood themed dinner party with some high school friends. It is always a risk to try a new recipe when you're sharing with other people, but this turned out GREAT and was completely eaten by the end of the evening. It was a also an ideal dinner party dish on a busy day because it only took me about 20 minutes to prep (and it looks like it would take a lot longer!).

A few people seemed skeptical about the idea of a 'savory' bread pudding, but this recipe makes it work. The top of the casserole is buttery and crunchy and the bottom is composed of thick crab custard. Anyway, here is the link in case you guys want to try it out for your own dinner party! www.foodandwine.com/recipes/buttery-crab-bread-pudding

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ooooh La La: French Fabulousness in Greenwood!

Macoronis et Fromage at Gainsbourg

About a week ago I was browsing through the Seattle Weekly's 'Voracious' food blog when I noticed an article called "The 5 Best Mac and Cheese's in Town". Curious, because of my slight obsession with mac and cheese and cheese in general, I opened the link. Much to my surprise and delight I noticed that the 2nd best mac and cheese nominee was located less than 3 blocks from my new house! I promptly emailed Matt the link and begged him to take me there on Friday for date night.

So, after work on Friday Matt and I bundled up and walked the two and a half blocks to Gainsbourg (8550 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle 98103 or www.gainsbourglounge.com). The restaurant doesn't look like much from the outside (hence the reason I had walked by it a few dozen times and never noticed it), but once you walk through the heavy, black curtain a whole new scene unfolds. There are huge wood tables, an absinthe bar, a giant Eiffel tower sculpture on the bar, red walls and old, black and white, French films being projected on to the wall. We waited timidly by the door (even though the sign clearly said to seat ourselves) until the bartender told us that we could sit anywhere we liked at any chairs that were open at the larger tables. Sharing a larger table with another couple was really our only option because the place was packed.

We sat down and waited, waited and waited some more for the poor, single server that was working that night. When he did come over to bring us menus he politely apologized for the delay and stated that the restaurant was slammed that evening (wonder if the rave review in the Seattle Weekly had anything to do with that?). We browsed the menus, decided on our drinks, an appetizer and entrees and then waited and waited and waited (see a pattern here?) for the server to return and take our order. While waiting we joked that the slow pace must be a bit purposeful to add to the whole Parisian vibe.

I am happy to report that the food was worth the wait. We ordered Charcuterie ($11- bread, olives, meats and cheeses) to start and Matt ordered beer and I ordered a glass of Chardonnay ($8). The appetizer was great and wasn't too big or too small, just enough to munch on while we waited for our macaronis et Fromage to appear. The menu boasted that the mac was made with brie and gruyere (sounds odd, but OMG . . . SO. GOOD.) and a bread crumb crust ($9). When they finally did appear I couldn't wait to dig in and it was delicious!! There was not a lot of talking happening at our table while we ate, just a lot of savoring and enjoying. I had to order another glass of Chardonnay to help cut the richness of the cheese . . . which, to me, is a beautiful thing.

When we had scarfed down our entrees the server appeared and asked us if we'd like to try a piece of huckleberry cheesecake (the owner had recently picked huckleberries out of his friend's yard! How cool is that?) for dessert. We did share a piece, and it was quite yummy.

Upon bringing the check, the server told us that he had comped our first round of drinks for our extensive wait and the fact that we had to switch tables (which really wasn't a big deal). My kind of server! Very thoughtful and that final act of kindness guaranteed that we will be back at the Gainsbourg again VERY soon . . . but, of course, when we have time for a two hour dinner and not a quick bite.

I was a little skeptical about the Greenwood neighborhood at first, but with the discovery of the Gainsbourg things are looking up! Oh, AND, they have a happy hour with a $6 Gainsburger that I am dying to try. I guess I'll have to find the energy to walk the two and a half blocks from my house to enjoy . . . joie de vivre, indeed!