Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘Béchamel

Our French friends scheduled a weekend brunch with French acquaintances and I flippantly mentioned Café Presse. I had a moment of panic as we walked up to Capitol Hill and realised we would be sharing a meal with five French people at a French restaurant that I suggested. I was relieved when I remembered Café Presse has the same owners as Le Pichet.

At the intersection of 12th, Union and Madison, our group huddled in the crowded entrance as we waited for a table. With an exposed brick wall, skylights and a high ceiling, the dining room and bar was buzzing with energy. I scanned the diverse collection of publications on the newsstand and introductions were made.

We followed the maître d’ through to the back and were seated in the corner. The milky sky was surprisingly bright and we appreciated the natural light. A sideboard was laden with coffee and wine accoutrements.

We shuffled along the wooden bench as the tattooed and ringed waiter took our beverage orders. My Caffé Vita mocha was prettily decorated with a rosetta.

My favourite question of the menu was ‘how do you pronounce that’! I considered the pain au chocolat à l’ancienne (bittersweet chocolate melted on baguette) to nibble on while we perused the menu but I refrained. We sampled the assiette de charcuterie, a plate of country ham, sausage, terrine, rillettes and tongue with cornichons and bread.

We each ordered the croque madame or croque monsieur, some with a side of pommes frites. Topped with a glossy sunny side up egg, the sandwich of baked ham, Gruyère and béchamel bubbled and blistered. The viscous yolk and just set egg white tempered the saltiness of the meat and cheese layers. It was hearty French fare!

We whiled away the afternoon, our expat conversations interspersed with French.

On the edge of Belltown at a quiet corner is a cosy shared plates ‘gastro-tavern’. A casual neighbourhood eatery and bar, Black Bottle is becoming a local favourite to gather friends for a family style dinner and a bottle of wine.

A handful of small tables line the sidewalk, encouraging patrons to enjoy the last vestige of summer. A long dining room, the interior is lit by candles and framed by floor to ceiling windows. I recommend the tables in the bay windows, an intimate space at the front for good conversations and people watching.

We welcomed Ms C to Seattle on Friday evening. The restaurant was full by six thirty so we settled into one corner of the bar. The minimalist décor suits the narrow space. Clusters of tables are on one side and a birch counter is on the other. Two wall shelves are laden with neatly ordered bottles, one for liquor and one for wine.

There are six categories on the menu – meat, seafood, vegetables, flatbread, miscellaneous and dessert. I selected two, and Ms C and Mr S one each.

There is no sequencing to how the dishes are served and the first was roasted tomato Caprese with fresh oregano. Ripen and shrivelled tomato quarters were strewn amongst a row of fresh mozzarella. The salad was garnished with oregano instead of basil, a twist on the classic Caprese.

Next was the prosciutto and béchamel flatbread. Baked in a rectangular tart pan, the rustic flatbread was doughy and stretchy with molten cheese.

We inhaled the aroma of the house smoked wild boar ribs. Rubbed with spices, the ribs had an intense earthiness and the meat was tender and yielding.

Our last savoury course was masala chicken drums. Three large portions of chicken on the bone were paired with a chickpea and onion stew. The rusty hues of the masala paste were flavoursome and the drumsticks were well cooked.

We spotted the chocolate cake and vanilla gelato as we entered and it was a unanimous decision to split this between us. A caramel pattern surrounded the two tiered cake scattered with slivered almonds. Entombed was a scoop of vanilla gelato, a cool contrast to the dense and rich chocolate cake. One dessert, three spoons, an empty plate!

The hearty menu is perfect for the cold season, delicious comfort food for the winter months.

Pike Place Market thrives with activity in summer. Tourists queue patiently for a coffee from the original Starbucks, buskers are vying for the attention of passers-by, crowds linger at the fishmonger eager to witness a salmon throw, children climb on Rachel the Pig like an amusement park ride, and locals shop and eat in the heart of Emerald City.

When I reflect on summer in Seattle, these would be the fond memories I’ll retrieve to endure another winter. On a postcard day, I meandered down to Post Alley for a weekday lunch with La Modette. I have not walked this section of Post Alley before, an eclectic collection of trinket stores and restaurants.

My usually reliable mobile phone had ingested polyjuice potion and assumed the temperament of a diva. I could not, for it would not let me, search for the address of The Pink Door. I strolled up and down Post Alley looking for a sign when I realised there is literally a pink door. More beige than pink, two painted marble columns guard the entrance to The Pink Door.

A restaurant with free live entertainment by night (cabaret, trapeze, burlesque), a table on the terrace is highly coveted at lunch. With a panoramic view of Puget Sound, the terrace is shaded by a wooden lattice and I could easily while away the afternoon with a bottle of crisp white and nibbling on antipasti.

Service was brisk and we were seated quickly at a vinyl clothed table. We ordered a glass a house red, a generic Italian wine served in classic beer bottles. It was more than a standard drink at eight ounces!

La Modette opted for the antipasti, a generous plate of prosciutto, salami, grilled seasonable vegetables, tapenade and mozzarella.

I selected lasagna Pink Door, their signature meal. Presented in an oval baking dish, sheets of silky pasta were layered with besciamella and pesto, and doused in marinara sauce. Each mouthful was a complex blend of creamy, tangy and earthy – it was the definition of comfort food.

We exited through the anonymous pink door warmed by the sun, glowing from the vino and enriched by travel stories.


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