Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘prosciutto

If I had to name a favourite restaurant in Seattle it would be Lark. Seasonal ingredients, small plates, attentive service. I have dined there twice and both meals presented regional cuisine at its best and epitomised what I love about a restaurant experience.

The only blemish is the lighting. For a city ensconced in a melancholic grey for half the year, Seattle’s eateries are in the shadow of candles and dimmers. The Danish word ‘hygge’ is the perfect description of cosy ambience but I would like to read the menu without squinting!

The Lark dining room has a homely feel. Opaque curtains partition the centre tables and there is a row of booths along one side. It is intimate and comfortable.

Categorised into cheeses, vegetables and grains, charcuterie, fish and meat, the menu is designed for sharing and the wait staff can recommend the number of dishes depending on your appetite.

Wine was poured and bread buttered as our group of four chatted on a quiet Sunday evening in spring.

Asparagus featured in three of the courses and starred in this in Provençal style. Tender spears were sautéed in olive oil, garlic, rosemary and black olive.

On a terracotta plate were ribbons of La Quercia prosciutto garnished with figs and Parmigiano Reggiano shavings.

Three plump scallops were atop asparagus in an earthy broth.

The ubiquitous asparagus were paired with slices of rare Mishima Ranch wagyu hanger steak, roasted potatoes and a dollop of ramp butter.

A petite cocotte of pommes de terre Robuchon was smooth and buttery, an elegant mashed potatoes.

Dining with the French means duck. A crispy Liberty Ducks leg was served with spring onions and green chickpeas.

I neglected to note the third cheese but the other two were Kukulu Bleu de Brebis from the Pyrénées and Taleggio from Lombardy.

A compact round of hazelnut brown butter cake was adorned with whiskey poached figs and accompanied by a quenelle of salted caramel ice cream.

Light and ethereal, a generous mound of miniature madeleines was dipped in a tiny pot of Theo organic dark chocolate sauce.

Lark is simply splendid, a beacon for the Pacific Northwest.

It was a blissful afternoon of shopping in Portland. Alder & Co., Canoe, Flora, Hive and Woonwinkel were a modern collection of stores with curated homeware, jewellery, artworks and furniture. The contemporary aesthetics and stylish designs were stimulating! We re-caffeinated at Caffe Allora and joined the queue at Ken’s Artisan Pizza for dinner.

We were seemingly banished to wait at the back of the restaurant in the Bermuda Triangle of the dishwashing nook, an iron rack of logs for the wood fire oven and the bathrooms. I was surprised by a sprig of eucalyptus flower, leaves and gumnut at our table. I admired the vibrant hue as we sipped wine and whiled away two hours.

The wood fire oven is at the front of the restaurant where all the pizzas were made.

Paola‘s family serendipitously arrived as we were seated. It was nearly nine o’clock on a Friday night and Ken’s was buzzing.

Myra recommended the wood oven roasted vegetable plate. We ordered quickly as we were hungry and two of us were returning to Seattle afterwards. Clockwise from top right: carrots, chard, porcini and Asiago Vecchio; white runner beans, artichokes and tomato sauce; and polenta, kale, red pepper, almonds and chilli sauce. Tender and mellow, it was a requisite serving of vegetables.

We shared three pizzas. Ken’s crust was puffed and charred, a chewy dough that was sturdy support for the pizza toppings. The fennel sausage, onion, tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and hot Calabrian chilli pizza was spicy and bold.

I’m ambivalent to bacon but the guanciale pizza was a crispy homage to cured meat.

Last was my beloved prosciutto with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. Generous ruffles of prosciutto di San Daniele were unctuous and sweet.

A creamy chocolate custard concluded our day in Portland. Paired with a quenelle of cream and studded with hazelnut crunch, the terracotta bowl was emptied with the assistance of an adorable mademoiselle!

Portland, we will return!

I’m always nervous suggesting European restaurants to our French friends. Thankfully we loved the cosy ambience and homely fare of Dinette. I hummed the tune of ‘Four Seasons In One Day‘ by Crowded House all day. Snow, sleet, wind, rain. Repeat. There were moments of brilliant light, silver beams refracted off pewter clouds.

On Olive Way in Capitol Hill, Dinette’s seasonal menu has French, Italian and Spanish flavours.

Two adjoining rooms split the bar and dining areas. Powdered blue walls were accented by a cluster of serving trays. Tangerine damask lamps and glassybaby votive candles lit the counter.

A vertical piano was in the back of the dining room and Casey MacGill entertained us with the rhythmic melodies of swing jazz.

Neutral walls and embellished pillars, I adore the simple elegance of the décor.

A functional chalkboard listed the specials in block writing.

Infused with bergamot, the Earl Grey martini was a zesty apéritif.

We shared terrine and toasts as appetizers. A slice of rabbit, pistachio and bacon terrine was paired with grained mustard and pickled rhubarb. My aversion of rabbit continues and I had one bite of the terrine spread on crostini.

A three by four grid of toasts were presented on a wooden paddle. From left to right: prosciutto, croque monsieur and pesto. My favourite was the pesto, molten Beecher’s Flagship and spicy pickled peppers.

Ms S had the rainbow trout with French lentils, ruby chard and lemon aioli which was pleasingly fresh.

A generous portion, the spaghetti carbonara was tossed with bacon, peas and topped with an organic egg yolk. Mr S twirled a forkful for me to taste and it was a robust pasta.

An apt dish for March, Ms LM’s lamb was braised in Guinness, on a pillow of mashed rutabaga, leeks and peas, and garnished with grated horseradish.

I ordered the crispy skin chicken thighs. The butterflied dark meat was well seasoned, and the cauliflower purée was creamy and sweet.

The second terrine of the meal was Valrhona chocolate with whipped cream and nut brittle.

Our dessert was a retro bread pudding with raisins soaked in Tuaca, a dollop of whipped cream and drizzled with caramel sauce.

Quality ingredients, cooked splendidly!

‘For every dinner service there is a staff meal. Family style celebrations prepared by chefs for their crew, the meals are never on the menu, but are designed to show appreciation, provide energy for the evening, and more importantly, please even the pickiest palate.’ Marissa Guggiana

We joined Marissa at Tavolàta for an Off the Menu dinner by Chef Ethan Stowell. A converted loft with a high ceiling and an urban design, the dining room was moodily lit with flickering candles. Mirrors of varying shapes and sizes reflect light onto the bar.

Central to the restaurant is the tavolàta, a communal table.

The Sunday dinner was held on the mezzanine level which has an intimate view of the open plan kitchen.

The upstairs walls had metal inserts for pillars from which I souvenired a bruise on my upper arm.

Served family style, there were nine items listed on the printed menu plus bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and olives.

These vibrant, glistening globes of Castelvetrano olives were mild and nutty.

My eyes widened as wooden boards and bowls were delivered one after the other. We manoeuvred plates, cutlery and stemware as our table was enlivened with appetisers.

Thin slices of prosciutto di Parma were topped with fresh figs and shaved Parmesan. I could have eaten the entire platter of buttery cured meat! Only three ingredients and yet such complex flavours.

Balls of buffalo mozzarella were drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Thick wedges of the soft, creamy cheese were spread onto grilled bread.

The last of the paddles were sword fish and pickled red onions crostini.

The chickpea salad was tossed with celery, golden raisins and lemon.

A requisite bowl of mixed garden greens was dressed with red wine vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan.

A much maligned fish, the grilled sardines had strong flavours and paired well with fennel, pistachio and salsa verde.

Crispy edged with a wobbly yolk, the sunny side up duck egg was resting on pan fried potato gnocchi and chanterelle mushrooms.

Bigoli with anchovy, chilli, garlic and pangritata is the recipe in Marissa’s book. A hollow, tubular pasta, the strands of firm bigoli contrasted with the coarse breadcrumbs.

Fluffy dough balls were dusted with icing sugar and we dipped the zeppole into the glossy chocolate sauce.

We were gifted a bag of freshly made Lagana Pasta campanelle. These little bells will be cooked for a midweek dinner.

We were lucky to have Marissa at our table to share a meal with, and engage in fascinating and convivial conversations. And sincere thanks to Ethan and his staff at Tavolàta for an impeccable service and a delicious dining experience.

Autumn is here. I love the transition between seasons, how the previous lingers and the next emerges. Crisp mornings and deciduous trees shedding their golden leaves, interspersed with surprise bursts of sunshine.

A couple of locals have mentioned Row House Café and we meandered over to South Lake Union for weekend brunch. Located on Republican between Fairview and Minor, it is away from the Westlake and Terry hub.

A homely house converted into a café, Row House is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.

The front room is warm and welcoming with chalkboard menus, cake stands and bottle lined shelves.

There are two dining rooms decorated with eclectic recycled furniture.

Salvaged mirrors hung on walls and it was fun to peek in them for interesting reflections.

Row House served illy coffee and I cozied up to a smooth mocha.

It was quiet on a late Saturday morning and service was efficient. The relatively small café had about a dozen items on the weekend brunch menu.

Mr S ordered the eggs Benedict with prosciutto. We exchanged a knowing glance when we noticed the uniform shape of the poached eggs. Deceptive in appearance, the eggs were perfectly poached and not rubbery. The Hollandaise sauce was a little bland and watery but the oozing yolk and cured meat were flavoursome.

I was tempted by the description of the hundred layer French toast. An interpretation of French toast made with a flattened croissant, it was buttery and soft.

The Row House website describes the café as a ‘conversation house’ and it is indeed a welcoming place to sip coffee and chat.

On a dreary weekend, we meandered towards Downtown in search of a warm lunch. We have walked by Icon Grill many times, its scaffolding shielding its entrance for months. A large banner draped over the metal rods declared the restaurant ‘open during construction’.

The menu is displayed in a glass case at the front and a colourful board advertises with the slogan ‘aroused Americana cooking’. We gasped at the photo of the chocolate cake and counted six layers!

Stepping inside is an opulent dining room. Chandeliers of freckled glass shells dangle in nets, there is a comfortable distance between tables and the seats are plush.

Juggling between the standard menu, the ‘blunch’ menu and the lunch specials menu, we ordered an apéritif to ponder the options. The orange drop was a mix of mandarin infused vodka, lemon and orange juice in a sugar rimmed glass.

A warm basket of complimentary bread was served with three globs of butter. Clockwise from top: salted, red pepper, and garlic and chives.

We picked two lunch specials to share. The hot Italian ciabatta sandwich was wedged with prosciutto, pepperoni, roasted red peppers, pesto mayonnaise, mozzarella and arugula. The toasted sandwich was served with a bowl of French onion soup and a tomato dip.

Topped with a slice of baguette and with Gruyère bubbling over, the French onion soup was scrumptious. I also relished dipping my half of the ciabatta into the thick tomato sauce.

Two pulled pork sliders with cherry barbecue sauce were accompanied by a pot of coleslaw and French fries. The meat was a little dry but was easily remedied with a spread of the sticky cherry barbecue sauce. The generous side of shoestring fries were light and crunchy.

Warmed by the cocktail and a hearty meal, we exited into the familiar Seattle drizzle.

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.

‘I don’t remember it being this steep’, I wailed. I’m oblivious to gradients when driving but you feel every degree when walking. We trekked up to Capitol Hill on a weeknight for a screening of Stephen Sondheim’s Company at the Egyptian Theatre. On a plateau opposite Cal Anderson Park is Cure, a small bar specialising in cheese and charcuterie.

A simple sign indicates the entrance to the bar and it’s a long and narrow space inside. There’s counter seating and bar tables at the back. A glass panel has the dual purpose of being a menu board and enclosing the charcuterie section where the cured meats are sliced.

It was a quiet place to recover from our walk as we sat and watched the playful action on the tennis and basketball courts across the park. Cure has a short menu with a selection of individual meats and cheeses, house plates, side dishes and specials.

The gentleman guided us through the menu and helpfully answered our questions. We ordered a customised trio house plate of culatello, lomo ibérico and queso patacabra, and the lemon, basil and garlic olives.

Garlic was the dominant flavour in the olives with hints of lemon and basil. We broke off shards of the sliced baguette to dip into the brine.

The menu described culatello as ‘the little backside, like prosciutto but better’. That is an emphatic statement to make to a prosciutto lover! I was sceptical of the claim, unwavering in my loyalty. Of a lighter hue than prosciutto, the culatello was delicate and tender. It had a similar melt in mouth feel to prosciutto but with a mellower taste.

Iberian pigs are fattened by a diet of acorns and the lomo ibérico, cured tenderloin, was meaty. A Spanish aged goat cheese, I found the queso patacabra to be a firmer texture and lighter flavour version of chèvre, a pleasant pairing for the cured meats.

This production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company with the New York Philharmonic was staged and filmed in April 2011. The stellar cast included Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Patti LuPone and Christina Hendricks. ‘Here’s to the ladies who lunch … I’ll drink to that!’

I grew up with communal dining at home and in restaurants. Why limit yourself to one item on the menu when you can sample several by sharing the dishes? To my delight, the small plates trend has continued. I stumbled upon Bisato scrawled on a Post-it stuck on the desk underneath a pile of papers. In my short time in Seattle, I have developed a haphazard note taking habit where restaurant names are scribbled on scrap paper, to be added to a computerised list later. I was intrigued by Bisato’s small plates approach and we find ourselves there for a mid-week dinner.

We nearly missed the nondescript entrance with minimal signage. There’s a small patio for sidewalk dining and I was worried the restaurant was closed as the outdoor chairs were stacked high. The interior is sparsely decorated with the long, curved bistro style bar its star. There’s a row of seats at the counter with a view of the open plan kitchen but we sat at an intimate table by the window.

Our waiter recommended two dishes per person to share and there’s also a comprehensive list of specials. We commenced our meal with the artisan bread with extra virgin olive oil. The bread was fluffy with a chewy crust, and the olive oil was pleasantly perfumed.

Mr S picked the red romaine lettuce salad with twenty year old balsamic and olive oil. Simple in appearance, it was a deceptively tasty salad. The separated leaves are piled in a large bowl and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Aged for twenty years, the premium grade balsamic had a sweet aroma and was smooth on the palate with a slight tang.

The salumi of the day was a choice between a selection of salami and prosciutto di Parma. While tantalised by dulce salami, Mr S yielded to my love of prosciutto.

We had inadvertently ordered only one hot dish – two quenelles of meat ragú were atop a rectangular block of polenta with a fonduta cheese sauce. The polenta was firm and the fonduta creamy but the highlight was the meat ragú. It tasted like puréed Bolognese sauce, an intense flavour that paired well with the polenta.

On the specials menu was bucatini in chives sauce with salmon roe. We were both surprised that the brightly coloured noodles were cold. The hollow spaghetti was slippery with the chives sauce and olive oil. Each mouthful was a perfect combination of freshness and salty, briny bursts of salmon roe.

I was pondering dessert and was keen on the lemon tart when our waiter impressed us with five dessert specials. The pineapple ravioli piqued my interest. Thinly sliced pineapple surrounded a single pineapple ravioli with rice pudding and pistachio, and a carafe of white chocolate jus was poured at the table. It might look odd and plain but it was a lovely summer dessert. Although I would have preferred a knife as it was challenge to cut the pineapple with spoon and fork!

Mr S opted for a cheese course of Pecorino Toscano baked on cedar with truffle honey. The wedge of cheese had small bubbles with a thin crust formed, and was soft and fragrant. It had a hint of smokiness and was just heavenly.

While the bill was more Sydney than Seattle, the food were creative interpretations of the traditional which made it a worthwhile dining experience.

On the edge of Downtown and in an apartment building, Barolo has a beautiful dining room in muted tones lit by candlelight. But as we enter, we turn left into the small bar area with counter seating and a single row of narrow tables. We’re here for an early dinner to take advantage of their happy hour. We squeezed into the last available table, next to a rowdy group of four sampling every dish on the bar menu.

Service is efficient as the waitstaff understand patrons are keen to make the most of the fifty percent discount! A substantial section of the bar menu is seafood, although we had previously enjoyed the rigatoni with beef and veal ragú, hanger steak and lamb burger. We chewed thoughtfully on the complimentary focaccia and tapenade, trying to distinguish what the sweet ingredient was. There was a mild sweetness to the focaccia but the tapenade also had a sugary aftertaste.

Due to the size of the table, we were constantly shifting glassware and plates throughout the meal – definitely elbows off! The Parma prosciutto plate is presented on a large wooden board and there are a dozen translucent slices of porcine delight. The coral coloured prosciutto di Parma is delicate to handle and simply melts in your mouth. I would happily eat layer after layer of this, gently peeling it off the wax paper and rolling it into prosciutto cigars, sipping on a glass of pinot grigio.

We made the rookie mistake of thinking that one pound of sautéed mussels would be plentiful. We’re accustomed to one kilo pot of mussels, which is just over two pounds. Our one pound of mussels was steeped in a white wine sauce with garlic and chilli, garnished with finely chopped parsley. The mussels were small but tender, and the broth pairs well with the briny molluscs. A side of chunky hand cut fries (moules frites!) would bulk up the meal.

Mr S added the ahi tuna carpaccio to our order and it was a mosaic of Christmas colours. Celery, red onions, capers and parsley dot the pink hued tuna, drizzled with horseradish cream. It is a lovely balance of flavours.

I chose the eggplant parmigiana, a hearty vegetarian dish. The thick discs of eggplant are soft and silky, smothered in molten cheese and tomato sauce.

We were tempted by desserts and Mr S liked his pera al vina bianco e cioccolato - poached pear with chocolate and hazelnut gelato. While I’m lukewarm about mixing fruit and chocolate in desserts, I adore hazelnuts and the gelato was pleasantly nutty. My tiramisu was unfortunately overloaded with mascarpone and didn’t have enough savoiardi for a spongy texture.

Happy hour at Barolo is a stylised experience – service is polished and so is the silverware. But at its core, it is delicious food at a good price in a relaxed atmosphere which qualifies it as quintessentially Seattle.


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