Posts Tagged ‘Spanish’
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!
I walk through South Lake Union several times a week. The neighbourhood is busy during the week, especially on the Westlake thoroughfare from Whole Foods to Harrison. I noticed the construction site on the corner of Harrison and Terry many months ago and didn’t know it was Cactus until recently. I love the pink window frames!
Next to the trio of Tom Douglas restaurants in the Terry Avenue Building and opposite Portage Bay Café, it is an emerging dining hub. The eateries already do brisk business on weekdays but foot traffic is minimal on weekends.
Cactus is located in an elongated room with a high ceiling. A bar is at the entrance and the dining room splits to the right and left. A private function room is on the mezzanine level. Floor-to-ceiling glass filters in natural light and patterned cylindrical lampshades are elegant and muted in contrast to the colourful furnishings. Chairs were painted and upholstered in azure, lime, saffron and copper.
We were seated at a booth on a quiet Sunday lunch service. Hand painted motifs featured on each wooden table. The modern and vibrant space is welcoming and cheerful.
Mango agua fresca, a fizzy beverage of agave nectar, fresm lime, mango, mint and sparkling water was refreshing.
The other Cactus restaurants are in Alki Beach, Kirkland and Madison Park and each has a unique logo which is printed on the serviettes.
We nibbled on salsa, guacamole and corn chips while we perused the menu. The salsa casera, homemade salsa, was appetisingly piquant.
A basket of warm corn chips was plentiful for the bowl of guacamole. Avocado, cilantro, lime, onion, serrano chillis and pico de gallo mashed together as a chunky dip.
Mr S selected the fajitas with grilled skirt steak. A plate of condiments and warm flour tortillas accompanied the sizzling skillet of Spanish rice, cumin black beans and caramelised onions. There is a rustic charm in wrapping ingredients and eating it by hand.
There are two tacos per serving and the kitchen kindly accommodated my request to mix and match. Spanish rice and cumin black beans were requisite for a Mexican meal.
On a house made white corn tortilla, the pescado had a fillet of battered fish, coriander and pasilla coleslaw, pico de gallo and buttermilk crema. A little soggy, the flaky white fish absorbed the tangy flavours that were tempered by the squirt of buttermilk crema.
The second taco was carnitas Yucatecas, Carlton Farms pork in achiote marinade and roasted in banana leaves, caramelised pineapple, Cotija cheese and red onion escabeche. It is a delectable combination of tender meat, sweet pineapple and pickled onions.
Flan is a one of my favourite desserts and this three milk Cuban flan is one of the best I’ve tasted. The sepia toned custard was poised in a puddle of sticky sauce. It was firm, smooth and creamy, topped with a vanilla speckled layer of caramel.
Cactus is a welcomed addition to South Lake Union!
Preceding All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, Halloween isn’t observed in Australia. Some family neighbourhoods would have trick-or-treat for children but it’s not as commercialised as in America.
Pumpkins, candy and costumes. Decorative and carving pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and varieties were piled high into grocery stores, bags of candy and chocolate stacked the shelves of supermarkets, and feathers, sequins, glitter and taffeta were fashionable for one night only.
On All Hallow’s Eve, we avoided the ghoulish crowds by enjoying a civilised dinner at Pintxo. Pintxo, toothpick or skewer snacks, are a northern Spanish specialty.
The narrow street frontage has a view into the kitchen through the window. Although there is an exhaust extractor, the restaurant was a little smoky from the exposed kitchen. A blackboard divided the liquor bottles from the pantry items.
Modern art cluttered the walls and an ornate mirror enlarged the dining room.
We shared a carafe of sangria that was devoid of fruit except for a wedge of lemon as garnish. The wine punch was a refreshing accompaniment to the meal.
The first pintxo was bacon wrapped dates. Three morsels of medjool dates were stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon. It was an appetising sweet saltiness.
Three slices of toast were scattered with jamón serrano and topped with sunny side up quail eggs. It was a decadent combination of buttery ham and creamy yolk.
The second pintxo style dish was Moorish chicken skewers. Marinated in an almond and garlic spice rub and grilled, the skewers were served with Tunisian couscous, cherry tomatoes and tzatziki.
Macrina baguette was dipped in olive oil and a tangy salsa.
Cauliflower florets and halved cherry tomatoes were sautéed in garlic infused oil.
Beige in appearance, patatas and chorizo were braised in gravy until tender.
Speared by a bamboo stick, three citrus cinnamon braised pork sliders were smothered in chimichurri and doused in a balsamic reduction.
Similar to a crème brûlée, the crema Catalana had a caramelised sugar crust, and the custard was perfumed by cinnamon and lemon.
And lastly, the charred bread pudding with dulche de leche had the consistency of a dense cake.
Howls and sirens echoed through the night as I pondered why the dishes were in sets of threes.
Disclosure: I attended this event as a guest of Lane PR. This is not a sponsored post.
I like wine. A simple statement, yet meaningful. Moments in life are celebrated or commiserated with wine. Champagne flutes at weddings, a bottle of red to listen to a friend, decanters at dinner parties or a glass while cooking. Our ‘cellar’ in Sydney, a cupboard underneath the staircase, was partial to bold Australian reds and fruity whites. We were blessed with wine regions in each state and proximity to New Zealand. I considered French, Italian and Spanish wines as special and for restaurant wine lists as they tend to be expensive.
We have drunk more ‘foreign’ wines in the eight months we’ve been here than we did the last three years in Sydney. They’re affordable and of quality. We’ve sampled Piedmontese wines and learned about French wines from Gallic friends. My knowledge of Spanish wines was limited to Tempranillo and Pedro Ximénez so I was keen to attend the eighteenth annual Wines from Spain Great Match ‘featuring Spain’s vivacious varietals’ held at the Washington Athletic Club (WAC).
Leslie Sbrocco hosted a Rías Baixas (means lower estuaries) tasting. The Denominación de Origen (Denomination of Origin, DO) in Galicia is located in northwest Spain and there are five sub zones. It’s wet and lush in the Atlantic climate and the grapes are grown over pergolas for air circulation, to ripen the fruit and to prevent mildew. An intense minerality of the wines is from the granite in the area. Leslie noted that Albariño is a balanced wine that is flexible with food pairings. Local dishes such as roasted Padrón peppers, tetilla cheese (‘nipple’ cheese) and percebes (goose barnacles) are eaten with Albariño.
We tasted eight wines – five from the Val do Salnés sub zone, two from O Rosal and one from Condado do Tea. Of varying shapes, sizes and colours, the eight bottles are a reflection of the diverse culture of Rías Baixas!
From left to right: Condes de Albarei Albariño 2010, Burgáns Albariño 2010, Mar de Frades Albariño 2010, Albariño de Fefiñanes 2010, Laxas Albariño 2010, Valmiñor Albariño 2010, Santiago Ruiz Albariño 2010 and Pazo Señoráns Albariño 2010.
Wine glasses were placed on a numbered piece of paper. As we swirled, sniffed and sipped, Leslie talked us through each wine and the audience commented on the aromas and flavours. The Rías Baixas DO has 9,000 acres planted and 6,500 growers with half an acre being the average plot of land. Leslie quoted a grower that ‘it’s like a garden’. It is a mountainous topography with thick foliage.
My favourite was the Albariño de Fefiñanes, a vibrant and elegant wine from an old winery. The Mar de Frades Albariño has a thermo-sensitive logo of a ship that only appears on the label when the wine is chilled to a serving temperature of approximately 55°F. The label of the Santiago Ruiz Albariño is hand drawn by the owner as a map for his daughter’s wedding.
After tasting eight wines and only eating a couple of thin slices of baguette, I was in need of food to absorb the alcohol before the main tasting. A handful of clothed tables were decorated with a bowl of spiced Marcona almonds and a saffron coloured Dahlia.
Tiered platters of charcuterie had a selection of cheeses and cold cuts including Manchego, tetilla, jamón serrano and chorizo.
A large salad of greens, tomatoes, corn, Manchego, red onions and vinaigrette was fresh and tangy.
The tortilla de patatas is a soothing wedge of comfort food and I devoured the Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions.
Bain-marie stations had spicy chicken empanadas, and bamboo skewers of marinated and grilled scallop, salmon and halibut.
Albondigas, meatballs in tomato sauce, were neatly lined in a tray.
A spoonful of paella was topped with saffron seared scallop.
I was so happy there was lamb. Seasoned with garlic and parsley, the lamb chops were tender and juicy, and slightly pink in the middle.
Nourished and hydrated, I walked a couple of laps of the Crystal Ballroom. A beautiful bouquet was the centrepiece.
Hundreds of WAC branded wine glasses were gleaming.
A grand room lit by chandeliers, it was buzzing with wine lovers.
I spotted Salty Seattle who introduced me to The GastroGnome. We drank merrily, and had convivial conversations with representatives from Lane PR, Embassy of Spain and Trade Commission, and Wines from Spain.
The highlight was the Conde de Valdemar Reserva 2005 and Gran Reserva 2004, both spicy and rich Tempranillo. The terms Reserva and Gran Reserva are governed by law in Spain, stipulating a minimum period of aging in barrel and bottle.
It was a fun afternoon and I can now select Spanish wines with some confidence.