Category Archives: US

Seattle – Westward

We finally got to dine at Westward thanks to Renzell. Cashed in  some of my points for this lovely four course meal. We started with an oyster shucking class and learned a bit how the various places around Washington are affected by the water they’re grown in. We’re so far North don’t need to worry much about the “R” rule when eating oysters, we get to enjoy them year-round. Everything was incredibly fresh and the wine flowed freely, perhaps a bit too freely.

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Chips & Dip – tonnato, capers

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Manila Clams – spring onion, black garlic, rainier beer

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Braised Lamb Shoulder – tzatziki, flatbread, mint salad

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Strawberry Shortcake

Lummi Island – Willows Inn

For K’s birthday we made the short drive back to Lummi Island just over two years since our first visit. While Chef Wetzel was not in the kitchen this weekend, his team kept standards high and I’d say this meal was better than our first visit. Only five of the 19 courses were repeats and I’m glad two of them were the sablefish doughnuts and smoked salmon. A few of the dishes were different takes on the same ingredients, the spot prawns were grilled rather than cooked in rock salt and the shrimp paste with the heads were amazing. The crab brain instead of chicken drippings for the bread course was also a luxurious upgrade. The aged venison was better in flavor and the smaller portion was also good, the little bit of tendon served with it was succulent. Of the new dishes the geoduck, tostada and charred fins were amazing, I’m really glad to see the team pushing their boundaries.

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Toasted Kale Leaves: truffle, rye

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Sidestripe Ceviche: rhubarb

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Blue Clams: black radish

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Savory Doughnot: black cod

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Smoked Mussel

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Native Oysters: wildcress

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Chillled Hakurei Turnip Soup: caviar

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Lightly-Cured Rockfish: bone broth

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Grilled Geoduck

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Spot Prawns: Shrimp head paste

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Smoked Sockeye

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Aged Venison Leg: tendon

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Herb Tostada

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Bread: crab brain

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Charred Black Cod Fins

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Toasted Birch Branches

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Quince and Candied Rosemary

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Nootka Rose Petals

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Island Berries and Elderflowers

This time we had breakfast at the Inn before catching the ferry back to the mainland. While it was very good and more than we could eat, I felt it was a bit overpriced compared to dinner, which is cheap in comparison to similar restaurants in NYC/SF/Chicago.

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San Francisco – Monsieur Benjamin

For our last meal in SF, I wanted to try the one Corey Lee restaurant I had yet to experience. Moneieur Benjamin is the most straight forward of the three serving up traditional French bistro food.  After some big meals outside SF with friends we decided to go fairly light. The escargots were my favorite since it went beyond the usual butter and garlic preparation. The bone marrow was chef Lee’s homage to Blue Ribbon in NY which was the first restaurant he worked in, unfortunately while the bacon jam was good it didn’t hold up to the oxtail marmalade served at Blue Ribbon. Our main was very tender and had good flavor but was overly sweet, even after dumping lots of salt and pepper on it I wanted to ask for some hot sauce to balance out the dish.

For dessert walked a few blocks to Smitten Ice Cream for some extremely rich dessert.

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Escargots Bordelaise: mushroom duxelles, garlic parsley

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Marrow Bones “Blue Ribbon”: bacon marmalade, country bread

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Tripes a la Provencale

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Brandy

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Chocolate

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Brown Sugar

San Francisco – SPQR

After a long day of wine touring and driving we wanted something a bit on the lighter side but still interesting. SPQR is probably best known for their pasta but it was my least favorite dish, olives dominated a bit too much but if taken out of the equation the pasta and seafood tasted fantastic. The crab was perfectly crispy and paired well with the salad. The bun was my favorite, it was basically a char siu bao with the filling on top rather than inside. Of the four types of preparations on the pork, we all agreed the porchetta was incredible, nice amounts of fat and succulent meat.

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snow pea, bufala ricotta, marinated mushroom, meyer lemon, “cover crop” and horseradish

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venere rice crusted soft shell crab, “funghi sott’ olio”, persian cucumber and salad burnet

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smoked wagyu shortrib bun, beef verjus

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squid ink spaghettia, red wine braised octopus and mussel “puttanesca”, black olive crumb

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“degustazione” of suckling pork, charred onion, blenheim apricot and smoked bacon sauce

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dark chocolate and raspberry

Healdsburg – Bravas Bar de Tapas

Instead of heading to Napa for wine tasting as we normally do went to Sonoma instead. Of the four wineries we visited our favorite was the most rustic, no fancy tasting room and no other guests. Just two people with a small bar counter to the side in the lone barn housing the production equipment and barrels of wine.

Of course for this drinking marathon needed a good base to start they day and Tartine rose to the occasion but we did have to wait a bit for the chocolate croissants to come out of the oven.

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Croissant, ham & cheese croissant, chocolate croissant, morning bun

After our first two stops went to the quaint town of Healdsburg for some tapas. As usual I ordered with my eyes and when the calamari came we were only able to eat half, but I overhead the table next to us discussing how good it looked so I just picked up the plate and gave it to them. They all agreed with me that it was the best thing they had there although the foie gras bocadillos were also amazing.

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crab toast, chicken & ham & cheese croquetas

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Clams: cava, garlic, chili flakes

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Foie gras, crispy serrano ham, orange marmalade

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Crispy pig ears, anchovy vinaigrette

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Calamari, salsa verde

San Francisco – Quince

K and I decided earlier this year to head to SF to visit friends and eat, too bad most of our friends went out of town for the long weekend. On the upside when my parents heard they invited themselves along as it’s their 45th wedding anniversary and would be paying for a fancy meal. I wasn’t going to complain.

The meal lasted over three hours and we could barely move once it was over. I somehow had room to eat most of their mignardises. Everything was exceptionally good although I felt the halibut wasn’t anything special by itself and one had to get lot of sauce for it to taste great. My favorites were the asparagus, especially when dipping the mozzarella filled bread in the excess sauce, and the garganelli.

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Canape: gougere, onion rings, pea pillow, parmesan marshmallow and two things I don’t remember anymore

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Trumpet mushroom, salt cod fritter

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Tsar Nicoulai Caviar: brioche, kohlrabi, smoked sturgeon

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Dungeness Crab: asparagus, green almond, green strawberry

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Springtime in Bolinas

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White Asparagus: morel, vin jaune

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Garganelli: maine lobster, english pea, scallion

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Halibut: fiddlehead fern, wild ramp, chanterelle mushroom

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Foie Gras

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Agnolottini: squab, fava bean

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Tortellini

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Milk Fed Lamb: potato, nepitella, black garlic

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Grilled lamb

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Verjus: rose geranium, lemongrass

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Strawberry: smoked coffee caramel, meringue

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Gift for their anniversary

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Mignardises: lemon bar, shortbread cookie, canele, ginger truffle, financier

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Seattle – Altura

My parents were in town for some good food and wine touring. I had been talking up Altura since K and I went almost a year ago and I’d say it lived up to their expectations. My dad said he liked it better than EMP although when pressed why, his answer flabbergasted my mom and me. The menu was familiar but different enough to not feel like a repeat. My dad and I got the additional pasta carbonara with truffles shaved on top which was very good but not my favorite dish of the night, the scallop and risotto were.

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King Salmon – beet and horseradish, golden trout roe, dill pollen

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Sea Urchin – parsley root canoli, spruce tips

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Steelhead Roe – fennel panna cotta, smoked with madrona

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Asparagus Variations – osetra caviar

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Foie Gras – Sicilian pistachio, whipped campari

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Pink Baked Scallop – meyer lemon, wild onion

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Beef Crudo – marrow roasted beets, pickled ramps, parmesan

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Carnaroli Risotto – fennel sausage, peas, castelmagno

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Darrell’s Bread – salumi, favetta

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Farro Tagliatelle – duck egg, pecorino, perigord black truffle

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Wood Sorrel Sorbetto – prosecco granita, rhubarb tapioca

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New York Strip – foraged mushrooms, wild greens

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Halibut Roasted in Wild Onion Ashes – radish

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Duck Brodo – infused with charred radicchio and pine

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Buratta – crispy nettles, ramp leaves

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Mascarpone Cheesecake – meyer lemon, sour plum, woodruff

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Affogato – mascarpone gelato, cannoli, grappa soaked cherry