I'm all about the reward system, especially personal ones. So after busting ass at the wine shack through the holidays, it seemed exactly the time to bust out of town for a pre-New Year escape Sunday for a day and night of indulgence in Seattle. I knew it was going well when within an our of our arrival w and I had already purchased three pair of new shoes and were comfortably seated having glasses of French rosé bubbly at Café Campagne while waiting for our hotel room to be ready.
I'm not sure how my shoe infatuation started, but friends are starting to spread vicious rumors about my edging up on shoe whore status. But this time I blame w, who spotted the clearance sale sign at Shoefly and dragged my not-so-reluctant and ready-to-be-newly-shod feet across the street. 40% off everything? I mean, come on, what could we do?! Two pairs for me and one pair for her, that's what! After that quick spending spree and a most satisfying lunch at Café Campagne, my favorite vacation lunch spot in town, we made our way back to the room at the Inn at El Gaucho. Located in the heart of the trendy-cool Belltown 'hood, this is a great, very comfortable small hotel. Plus we both thought our room (#9) with a view (that's the view out of our window at left) of Puget Sound was a great deal at a little under $200. Check it out and book at Seattle Super Saver for the best deal.
We wandered around the neighborhood, checked out Pike Pace until late afternoon, then walked up to Quinn's, the gastropub/hotspot recently opened by Restaurant Zoe owners Scott and heather Staples. We were coincidentally going to Zoe later for dinner, so it was fun to check out the other Staples venture. Quinn's is modeled on the Euro gastropub, meaning cozy, dark, with great food, beers, & whiskeys to soothe ones soul. I had tucked into a perfect Manhattan while w had a glass of fizzy prosecco. We snacked on a couple of exceptional apps: a plate of duck rillete surrounded by a spicy-smokey harissa sauce, and a cute little plate of meatball sliders....big yums to both!
Meatball sliders backed with duck rillette at Quinn's!
After that start, we were more than ready to ponder dinner, so a quick cab ride back to the hotel where we grabbed our dinner wine we brought with us (a stunning '95 Caprili Brunello di Montalcino Riserva), made a short four block walk to Restaurant Zoe, where we were warmly welcomed. I LOVE Zoe. I had been there a couple of years before and had a staggeringly good meal, and reading reviews of equal recent praise had me hungering for a return trip. Zoe has an exceptionally comfortable, perfectly lit dining room, ad provided the choice backdrop to settle in ad enjoy or cocktails, a couple of La Pommettes, their super-delish take on a classic French 75. After working our way through two starters, a salad, and our two entrees, I can happily report that they are still serving some of the best chow in town. Where to begin with the highlights...how does Crispy Kurobota Pork Belly Confit and a Grilled Spicy Octopus sound? Well, I can tell you how they tasted: fucking awesome! The pork belly (picture at right) was melt in your mouth tender, with some nice savory porky chew, and the octopus was a small tentacle grilled to perfection with a blood orange vinaigrette. We spit their Beet & Mushroom Salad which they thoughtfully put on two plates (without us asking!). It was amazing, beautifully composed with its base of quinoa topped with a mix of citrus, chopped mushrooms and beets and arugula with a thyme-shallot vinaigrette. Of course there was more to come, me being the boy who can't say no, or when, or stop, especially where food is concerned. So to table came w's plate of East Coast Sea Scallops with winter squash, smoked bacon, oyster mushrooms, and black lentils. This dish absolutely killed. A plate of perfectly balanced food perfection. One of the best plates of food either of us have had all year. Crazy!! I had their just right tender Braised Beef Short Rib, (which is seemingly on ever restaurant menu these days...with good reason, too, because it's usual really good!). This was good, except for the too prominent hit of horseradish which slightly overwhelmed the rest of the plate. When we mentioned this to our waitress, she agreed and said she'd mention it to the kitchen, which was nice to hear. After these two plates, w's eyes were starting roll back in her head, but how could we not order their hazelnut panna cotta? Fantastic! I had told out waitress when we ordered it that I couldn't decide between it and their tempting butterscotch custard, so that service angel, when she delivered our check, also brought a little bowl of the custard on the house. I love stuff like that!
Hey, it's the next day already. We had to leave early to get back to Portland and get ready for a New Year's do at our friends J&K's, but I had noticed some raves for a Vietnamese place called Green Leaf, which opened at 11. This seemed the perfect counterpoint to our night of indulgence at Zoe. We checked out, hopped in the car, made our way to the "International Zone" where a ton of Asian joints are, and had a fantastic lunch for so little money that it bordered on ridiculous. Absolutely a must stop, and don't you dare miss their appetizers of Ban Xeo, a Vietnamese pancake made with a coconut batter and filled with sprouts, pork & shrimp (or tofu), and eaten wrapped inside green leaf lettuce leaves;, and the Dao Hu Nuong (above), which looked like three grilled tofu popsicles accompanied by a great sweet & sour dipping sauce. I ordered the lemongrass shrimp which was good, but w again rocked the table with her dish of Bun Dac Biet, which is a combo vermicelli which she declared to be one of the best vermicelli she had ever had. High praise because vermicelli is how she grades her Vietnamese joints. This hit it hard! So good, complex, and satisfying. Stuffed again, our wallets lightened by only thirty bucks for all that goodness, we made our way back to PDX, again thanking the Gods of all that is edible for being able to have these incredible dining experiences...wow!!!