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Category Archives: Hot Spot restaurants and bars

This Seattle restaurant’s menu is diverse and fresh

Ever-changing menu at Blind Pig Bistro makes it a worthy restaurant to revisit

Three words describe the Blind Pig Bistro in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood: seasonal, local and creative. This small restaurant seating less than 30 people is sandwiched between a Subway and teriyaki restaurant in a tiny strip mall at 2238 Eastlake Ave. E. But don’t let the size of the restaurant be the judge of what this restaurant can cook.

The small kitchen at the Blind Pig Bistro prepares a 12-courses tasting menu for visitors. A large blackboard on the wall is a menu that serves as a cheat sheet for what your palate will be tasting throughout the night. Come hungry and pace yourself at this casual restaurant that takes no reservations. It’s best to plan this dining excursion with a group of friends (a total of 4 works best) so that you can order the tasting menu that’s shared at the table for a total of $130-$170 depending on the fresh menu. For about $40 per person, you can try numerous dishes that will wow your taste buds.

Chef Charles Walpole modifies the menu every couple of days, and overhauls it about once a week focusing on local ingredients and fresh seasonal products coming from farmers in the area. Through the International Food Bloggers Conference and Urbanspoon, several food bloggers from across the country, included myself dined at the Blind Pig Bistro. Bloggers said the food was fresh, provocative and well-balanced. The favorite dishes were the steak with charred eggplant, duck and zucchini salad.

If you need to nibble, experience their happy hour of small bites of the chef’s desire for $5 and wine by the glass for the same price. Recent reviews of the restaurant include:

The Seattle Times

Eater Seattle

Seattle Met

Cheers

Christine

Blind Pig Bistro on Urbanspoon

Restaurant brings French flair to Bainbridge Island

Three fun ways to enjoy Bainbridge Island for the day through food, walks and a museum

If eating solo, sit near the kitchen where you can watch Chef Greg Atkinson and his team use fresh ingredients for their dishes. Photo by Christine Willmsen

If eating solo, sit near the kitchen where you can watch Chef Greg Atkinson and his team use fresh ingredients for their dishes. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Restaurant Marché, a bistro with a French-influenced menu, is reason enough to visit Bainbridge Island. Owner and Chef Greg Atkinson consistently prepares great food with a focus on local ingredients. But there’s more to see and do on this island.

With ferries leaving almost every hour from Seattle, Bainbridge is the perfect getaway for the solo traveler – either by foot or by car.

What better excuse do you need than a fantastic restaurant, verdant gardens and a new museum to visit Bainbridge Island for the day?

If the beautiful ferry ride over to this island getaway isn’t enough nature, I recommend you take your car on the ferry and then drive to the Bloedel Reserve. The 150-acre forest is lush with gardens and ponds. If you are keenly interested in birds, don’t forget your binoculars for this stroll.

After walking the trails for a couple miles, head back to Bainbridge Island’s downtown area – Winslow Way – where shops, the new museum and a wine tasting room will keep your senses engaged.

The great attraction about Bainbridge is that you don’t need a car if you just want to wander about downtown for the day.

New Museum captures creativity of local artists

The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, right on Winslow Way, between the ferry terminal and downtown shops, is a feast for the eyes. The museum, which opened in June, is free and features artist from the Puget Sound area.

At this point, you’ve built up an appetite and there’s no better place to curb it than Restaurant Marché.

Comfort and quality lead you to Marché

The lyonnaise salad has a perfectly cooked egg via sous vide as the centerpiece. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The lyonnaise salad has a perfectly cooked egg via sous vide as the centerpiece. Photo by Christine Willmsen

A hearty plate of duck breast with broccolini and an ancient wheat grain. Photo by Christine Willmsen

A hearty plate of duck breast with broccolini and an ancient wheat grain. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Here, Atkinson and his wife, Betsy, flow through the restaurant like it’s their second home ­– at least that’s the way guests are treated when they are greeted by the couple. Greg Atkinson worked as executive chef at Canlis for seven years and has also written several cookbooks.

At Marché, you can sit outside or inside depending on how busy the restaurant at 150 Madrone Lane is on any given night. But the best seats (about four of them) in the restaurant are near the open kitchen, where you can watch Atkinson and his team roll out dishes like grilled salmon, trout meuniére and steak.

Try the salad lyonnaise, which has thick chunks of bacon and a gooey-centered egg (cooked sous vide) on top of friseé. Marché has great cocktails, but the wine by the glass is limited.

The show-stopping dish is the Pleasant View duck cooked medium rare with a crispy, rich skin and a bing cherry sauce drizzled on top. It’s plated with Eikhorn, an ancient wheat, and broccolini.

The menu also offers small plates to nibble on like the country pate with pistachios and greens.

Just steps away is Mora Iced Creamery, where you can grab a gelato for the walk back to the ferry.

These are some of my top reasons to visit Bainbridge Island. I hope you find even more.

Cheers

Christine

Restaurant Marché on Urbanspoon

Poppy restaurant surprises dinner guests in Seattle

I picked Poppy as the Mystery Meet restaurant because I had yet to try the popular spot that's been on my hit list for months. I also wanted to see what Poppy’s Executive Chef Jerry Traunfeld was up to since leaving The Herbfarm.

I picked Poppy as the Mystery Meet restaurant because I had yet to try the popular spot that’s been on my hit list for months. I also wanted to see what Poppy’s Executive Chef Jerry Traunfeld was up to since leaving The Herbfarm.

Mystery Meet dinner location revealed – Poppy, an Indian restaurant

I love surprises. And as host of the recent Mystery Meet dinner in Seattle, my expectations were blown away by the food and service at the secret restaurant I picked – Poppy.

If you haven’t heard of Mystery Meet the concept is simple, a gathering of foodies who come together to eat at an undisclosed restaurant. The day before, guests were alert that Poppy was the restaurant I picked for this Mystery Meet adventure.

Ten of us took our seats at Poppy, located at 622 Broadway E., Seattle, on April 2.

Ten of us met at Poppy, located at 622 Broadway E., Seattle on April 2.

Ten of us met at Poppy, located at 622 Broadway E., Seattle on April 2. Photo by Christine Willmsen

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I picked Poppy for a variety of reasons. First, I had yet to try the restaurant and it has been on my hit list for months. I also wanted to see what Poppy’s Executive Chef Jerry Traunfeld was up to in the kitchen since leaving The Herbfarm. While Poppy has received high marks from food reviewers, I wanted to taste what it was all about.

With Poppy I realize you need to come hungry because it serves food Thali style. Thali means a round tray on which a variety of small dishes are served, all at once, to each guest. I started the evening with an amazing cocktail called Wild about Saffron – it mixed vodka, brandy and rose water with hints of lemon, saffron and angostura. Others in the group had wine and the Bourbon Sour that was topped with egg white.

Crunchy, savory appetizers for all

Dinner started with three appetizers: eggplant fries with sea salt and honey, spiced fig and onion tart with blue cheese and sage and spice crispies. The crispy and rich tart disappeared quickly among the group.

Spice crispies at Poppy restaurant are a great start to dinner. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Spice crispies at Poppy restaurant are a great start to dinner.

One appetizer included eggplant fries with sea salt and honey.

One appetizer included eggplant fries with sea salt and honey. Photos by Christine Willmsen

I think the biggest challenge when going to Poppy is deciding what to eat. While there are only four choices, what you get with your four choices is mind-boggling. Keep in mind your main entrée includes six other smaller bites of about two ounces each of food.

Thali-style offers several dishes to guests

I picked black cod with carrot sauce and cucumber shiso salad. The silky cod was cooked perfectly and the cucumber salad gave you a small crunch with every bit of fish. But that was just part of the main entrée. Along with the fish, an array of small bowls and dishes appeared on the large plate. My favorites on the plate were: the nettle and mushroom soup that had a smooth and earthy texture, grilled radicchio, leek and lentil salad, and delicata squash with black-eyed peas with berbere.

The black cod with carrot sauce and cucumber shiso salad came with six other small bowls of food. My favoraties were the lentil salad and the nettle soup. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The black cod with carrot sauce and cucumber shiso salad came with six other small bowls of food. My favorites were the lentil salad and the nettle soup. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Others in the group raved about their dishes. What’s great about foodies is that we love to share. In the case of so many great small dishes, it was nice that strangers were okay with others trying their food. The lavender-rubbed duck leg fell of the bone and was laced with rhubarb and angelica. The celery root ravioli with maitake mushrooms melted in your mouth with an unbelievable filing that had a creamy flavorful texture. It didn’t hurt that truffle butter lightly coated the ravioli. All the main entrees were served with nigella-poppy naan.

Don’t be afraid to ask the server what some of the ingredients are and how they taste. The staff is very knowledgeable about this infusion of Indian cuisine with other worldly flavors.

With 10 choices for dessert, picking a sweet finale can be a fun challenge

Midway through the meal guests moaned and groaned – in the pleasurable way of course. Once dessert hit I was already full, but like a true foodie I was able to find some room in my stomach.

This tart and creamy japanese cheesecake was just one of 10 dessert offerings at Poppy. Photo by Christine Willmsen

This tart and creamy japanese cheesecake was just one of several desserts offered at Poppy. The green pebbles are matcha coated in white chocolate. Photo by Christine Willmsen

I tend to go for the most interesting dessert – so I chose the Japanese cheesecake with passion fruit sabayon and matcha crumble.  The airy cheesecake, tart sabayon and the matcha (green tea) rolled in white chocolate made every mouthful a worthy bite. Others enjoyed the strong flavor of the ginger cake with vanilla ice cream, blood orange and candied olives.

Ginger cake with vanilla ice cream, blood orange intrigued several guests because of the candied olives. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Ginger cake with vanilla ice cream and blood orange intrigued several guests because of the candied olives. Photo by Christine Willmsen

If you think this restaurant may not be for you because you are dining alone – well think again. Poppy has a fantastic bar where you can eat smaller plates that’s perfect for one person and they offer a great happy hour. Try the grilled smoke trout and the fig blue cheese tart, each are $10 or less.

Poppy is definitely on my Hot Spot list.

Cheers

Christine

Poppy on Urbanspoon

An invitation to explore a great Seattle restaurant – the location is a surprise

Join other foodies at Seattle’s Mystery Meet dinner

So this Solo Cook is all for adventures – especially with food. Are you game? Do you like secrets and mysteries?

Well join me, the host, at the Mystery Meet dinner in Seattle. Join other foodies in a food exploration on Tuesday, April 2, at 8:30 p.m. You don’t know what restaurant you’ll be eating at until the day before and you don’t know the menu until you arrive. Sign up here and invitations will be sent out.

I’m the host of this event and guarantee you’ll have a great time at this amazing restaurant with multiple courses for only $49. But there’s no way you’ll get the location out of me early – although I do accept bribes.

Part of the fun is solving the mystery by guessing what restaurant I’ve picked. Here are some clues.

Location Clues:

  1. Washington D.C. mound.
  2. 21% between 25th & 26th.
  3. My posse’s on it.
  4. Hindi or Nepali for “plate.”
  5. Dorothy naps.

I attended a Mystery Meet dinner a couple months ago that was hosted by another food lover and blogger, Myrissa Yamashiro. It was an amazing night at Luc filled with a visit from Chef Thierry Rautureau and great conversations about food vacations, cooking and the hot restaurants in the area. I have no doubt we’ll have just as much fun and entertainment at this surprise restaurant.

Be daring, be bold and book your ticket now for Mystery Meet dinner.

Cheers

Christine

Happy hour at Seattle’s Sazerac will leave you smiling

Sazerac is a great downtown spot for happy hour food

Try Sazerac's freshly-shucked and fried oysters for happy hour. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Try Sazerac’s freshly-shucked and fried oysters for happy hour. Photo by Christine Willmsen

I’m always tempted to show readers of this blog exciting, new Hot Spots for them to try that are great for single people. But I haven’t forgotten there are numerous old -school restaurants and bars that are great to visit.

Sazerac Restaurant & Bar, at 1101 4th Ave., is a great place for happy hour if you are already downtown for a shopping spree, live music or a museum visit.  Sit at a bar stool, relax in a lounge chair or sit near the open kitchen, where wafts of sweet, smoky wood meander through the entire room.

The pork rillettes with raisin bread is satisfying and filling. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The pork rillettes with raisin bread is satisfying and filling. Photo by Christine Willmsen

While the drinks are good here, the food steals the show.  You’ll only need one or two of these appetizers to feel like you’ve had a full dinner at this restaurant adjacent to Hotel Monaco.

One of my favorites is the pork rillettes for $9 because the rich pork spread is paired perfectly with raisin pecan bread. Another must-have is the spicy beef tartare with roasted chilies for $8.

A glass of Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with oysters. Photo by Christine Willmsen

A glass of Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with oysters. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Happy hour is 4-8 p.m., every day except Sundays. And don’t forget the half dozen oysters freshly cracked in front of you and put on a beautiful rustic wood platter that pairs well with the Townshend Sauvignon Blanc for $7 a glass.

Sitting at the counter at Sazerac gives you a view of Chef Jason McClure's talents. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Sitting at the counter at Sazerac gives you a view of Chef Jason McClure’s talents. Photo by Christine Willmsen

For a main entrée I dug into the Pork Cheeks with Parsnip Puree, Bourbon Mushrooms and Shishito Peppers. The rich tender pork, the subtle sweetness of the parsnips and the touch of heat in the peppers make this a winning combo.

Jason McClure has been the executive chef for 15 years, but that doesn’t mean the menu is stale. McClure is always pushing his staff to be creative and bold, even mentoring some of them.

There’s no doubt he’s infused a certain chill factor at the open-faced kitchen. If you are like me and want to see the food and chefs in action, sit at the kitchen counter where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of almost every maneuver of the staff.

Here you will see and be able to interact with the chefs and be able to ask questions.

Try the pork cheeks with mushrooms and peppers for a main entree at Sazerac. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Try the pork cheeks with mushrooms and peppers for a main entree at Sazerac. Photo by Christine Willmsen

This is definitely my comfort zone, sitting near the heat of the wood-fired oven, soaking up the scents from the cutting boards and hearing the food sizzle on flames.

But another place to sit is in the bar, where you’re more likely to find people to interact with who have just gotten off work or who are gallivanting around downtown.

Here there is a mix of men and women who are single, often ready to start their weekend early and spark a conversation.

But don’t let me sway you. Try Sazerac out yourself and tell me what you think.

 

Cheers

Christine

Sazerac on Urbanspoon

This small Seattle bar has sparks – The Yard Cafe

The light bulbs add a rustic feel to The Yard Cafe, a small Seattle bar and restaurant.

If you want a place where people spark up random and engaging conversations, then hit The Yard Cafe in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. You also may end up with a phone number at the end of the night.

This is one of The Solo Cook’s Hot Spots. With bare light bulbs dangling from the ceiling and dark wood walls and booths, The Yard Cafe feels like a cozy mine shaft.

The Yard Cafe, at 8313 Greenwood Ave. N., evokes its name during the summer with outside seating at picnic tables, where people read books, peck at their computers and cuddle with their dogs.

Inside this small, dark bar and restaurant you’ll find amazing drinks, beers and a Latin-focused menu.

What’s refreshing is that there are no piñatas, colorful flags and wool blankets stapled to the walls. With autumn here, this is my hunker down locale that is casual and relaxed.

Cocktails and beers for the thirsty

The Break of Don cocktail is one of several on the drink list that you’ll want to try. There also is a great selection of beers on tap.

For a spin on the traditional margarita, order the Break of Don, with tequila, Campari and citrus. The Campari played off the citrus so well that the drink was gone within minutes and I was sucking on the ice cubes for the last bits of flavor.

The menu has the traditional favorites of tacos, arroz con pollo, and grilled fish Veracruz. But my eyes locked on the queso fundido with homemade chorizo. With small corn tortillas served on the side, I made bubbling, oozing pockets of creamy cheese, green chiles and chorizo. There’s no need to count the calories on this dish – it’s off the charts and totally worth it. This is a great dinner for $7.50.

Queso fundido with house-made chorizo oozes with flavor at The Yard Cafe.

When I arrived, I quickly realized this was a place for conversation and yes, meeting other single people. I shut the laptop down and was quickly immersed in chats about legalizing marijuana, the variety of beer hops in Washington state and the bitter loss my Green Bay Packers faced at the hands of the Seahawks and the amateur officials.

A drink you can nurse while chatting with new friends is the Burnt Orange, with rye, Grand Marnier, orange juice and bitters. But don’t forget the draft beer list with ever-changing taps of cider, IPA, pilsner, stout and more. The owners of the Dray in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle also own the Yard – which is spelled backwards.

Cocktails are $8 and draft beers are $5-8. Happy hours of 4-6 p.m. and 10 p.m.-close make these drinks even more appealing with $1 off. It can be chilly inside because of the open deck area, so wear layers.

Cheers

Christine

Anyone new to my blog can also follow me on twitter @TheSoloCook

The Yard Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tapas bar in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is a hit for singles

Ocho – a Hot Solo Spot

This deviled egg delight combines salmon roe, pickled onion, tomato dust and dill.

Turn to Ocho in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, if you want a restaurant that has small bites, made just for one person with an artistic impression.  As The Solo Cook, I look for places that single people can enjoy, whether it’s the vibe of the place or the menu that is eclectic and perfect for one. I’ll share my secret hot solo spots with you and I’ll also discover new places along the way.

At Ocho they throw great cocktails behind the bar and create bite-size menu items that are loaded with flavors from Spain.

This small tapas bar at 2325 NW Market St. is hopping, but there’s usually an empty seat at the bar. I also like to people-watch so I sit in the outdoor area, just in front, where I’m entertained by the foot, bike and car traffic, zooming by the table.

The Solo Cook enjoys the San Miguel cocktail at Ocho, a tapas bar in Seattle.

What’s fantastic about Ocho and other tapas bars is that you get to try several menu items, without getting full like you would if you ordered a large entrée.

Visually, these tapas tempt the eyes. I craved deviled eggs as a child, so when I saw Ocho’s grown-up version, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into the creamy egg. Their Huevo del Diablo for just $2.50 is an explosion of flavors in the mouth with salmon roe, dill, fried capers, pickled onion and tomato dust.

Another great menu item at $1.75 is the Banderilla de Boqueron, which combines skewered anchovy, red pepper, deep-fried artichoke and aioli.

“I wanted to convince people to try anchovies because in Spain they’re eaten like candy,” said Ocho owner and manager Zach Harjo.

While chatting with Harjo, I discovered his inspiration for the restaurant.

This tapas dish at Ocho will make you an anchovy and artichoke lover.

After graduating with several art degrees from University of Washington in 2003, Harjo backpacked through several regions of Spain. He discovered a vibrant nightlife with people standing at bars, nibbling food and having cocktails.

“I wanted to bring the bar nightlife of Spain to here,” he said about opening Ocho in 2008.  “The two or three dollar items inspired me in Spain and I love the flavors.”

To quench your thirst, I recommend you sip on the herbaceous and refreshing San Miguel drink with gin, St. Germain, rhubarb bitters and a touch of lemon.

Another gin drink called El Picador, changes colors as you imbibe. Because the speared beet bleeds into the drink, it turns red much like a Spanish bull bleeding in the ring, Harjo said. Drinks cost $8 and tapas about $2-9.

Cheers

Christine

My twitter account has changed, now follow me @thesolocook

Ocho on Urbanspoon