Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room

I had the recent pleasure of attending a food blogger meet up at the new Starbucks Roastery on capital hill. The roastery combines coffee roasting, a legit slow coffee bar, coffee sales, merchandise, light food, space to hang out, a Tom Douglas pizza restaurant, and a bar all in a sprawling high ceilinged mega-room decked out in reclaimed wood, burlap, copper, leather and cement.

We were fed delicious fancy pizzas,  wood fired carrots, salad, and coconut cream pie bites from the Tom Douglas side. The pizzas were as good as we've come to demand in this fire-roasted-pizza town, and included plenty of vegetarian options for modern toppings (truffle cheese with mushrooms, potato with rosemary, buffalo mozzarella with fresh basil, etc). I did a poor job of photographing this

The big bowl of salad was pretty much untouched by my fellow bloggers. I took a huge plate and quickly understood what the others seemed to have known: this was not a salad meant to be nibbled while standing and talking. Is it a trend these days to leave large lettuce leaves whole? I ended up sitting on the floor in order to tackle this tasty but unwieldly pile.

The most interesting thing about the whole evening was a strange nagging that I was in a Disneyland version of something cool. I kept flip flopping between: Is this hip? Is this avant guard? or Is this a corporately manufactured vision of something hip and avant guard?? The answer became more clear to me when I noticed this:

It is a hip looking roaster, with his leather brimmed cap, light denim shirt, dark jeans with a tidy cuff, boots with a perfectly burnished toe, and a food net over his little beard. And then this: 
Another one! I did a quick inventory and counted a half dozen or so identically clad gentleman. Some had dark glasses, many had hair with jaunty swoops. It was as if I had stumbled upon the character actors of our dear city's identity. In the manufacture of it's approachable hipster (these fine young-ish men were indeed super friendly and knowledgeable),  Starbucks has created a human experience accessory that allows even the most unhip to venture into a "cool" location without that pesky "cooler than thou" attitude that an indie hipster barrista (one who is allowed to wear his own clothes!) might embody. How convenient!

 All in all, the space did feel really pleasant, especially on a dark winter evening. There is no denying the fact that the space is loaded with beautiful design and materials, lots of visual intrigue (pneumatic pipes delivering coffee beans all over the building), and what appears to be a very complete line-up of boutique brewing options and fancy coffees offered in an interesting and accessible way. That said, I can't shake the vision of giddy a tourist coming in to experience "real" Seattle, and leaving out the gift shop.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chandala Thai

Columbia City has a new Thai Restaurant with a ton of promise for the vegetarians and vegans! Chandala Thai is located in the old St Dames location on MLK (sad to see it go). I was especially excited about the opening of Chandala because its price point isn't quite into the "fancy Thai" range that Spice Room is.

I recently had the absolute pleasure of ordering up a big dinner from Chandala for a group of vegetarian friends. Chandala has organized their menu to include a "vegetarian" section, and includes a description of the various types of "vegetarianism" that people choose (strict, ovo-lacto, etc), and indicated ingredients on the menu that might conflict with these. It turns out much of the menu can be made "strict vegetarian" (otherwise known as vegan), with the exception of the curries, which unfortunately have a little shrimp paste already mixed into the curry paste.

We ordered a little of everything (all vegan and made with organic tofu!): phad kee mao, chili green beans, ginger lovers, garlic lovers, cashew veggies, swimming rama (vegan peanut sauce!), and lab tofu, and it was all fantastic. The food was at once light but rich with flavor and spice and didn't cross into the generic overly oily territory that Americanized Thai food sometimes becomes. The lab tofu in particular was an awesome delight.

The one item that was a little bit disappointing was the phad ba mee (not vegan, has egg noodles), which I was hoping would be similar to ba mee hang, the delicious, spicy, lime-y, peanut-y, herb heavy dish made out of thin egg noodles, but instead it was more like standard chow mein.

I am so far out of the habit of blogging I didn't even take pictures. But I'm posting anyway because I want to sing the praises! I have found my new favorite south end Thai restaurant. I hope it does well! Chandala Thai on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 10, 2013

Come swimming!

Dear Seattle vegans and vegetarians,
Considering a triathlon? Love swimming but hate chlorine? Want to exercise outside? Come take a class with Seattle Open Water!! We offer individual sessions and 3-session group classes. Check it out!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kedai Makan

Kedai Makan is the brick and mortar version of the popular Malaysian food truck. It is located on west Capital Hill, and consists of a small take-out only menu (it is suggested that diners take their food a few doors down to Montana Bar and eat there).

There are two vegetarian items on the menu (an appetizer and an entree) and I tried both:

TAUHU SUMBAT, described as crisp & firm roasted tofu. spicy sweet chili sauce, cucumber, cilantro, bean sprouts & sesame. This was served cold and was a little too sweet for my taste.

NASI GORENG, described as Malaysian style fried rice cooked with kecap manis, chili. served with a runny fried egg and choice of tofu & sprouts or roast pork. I ordered mine without the egg and it was quite the delicious chewy, fried, intensely flavored delight. Mixed in with the rice were tofu, greens, herbs and chilis.

It was pretty awesome to have a full-on delicious vegetarian entree available amidst what appear to be meat specialties. My beef-chowing dining companion was thrilled with his order.

Kedai Makan is open from 4pm til "late," and I'd imagine a plate of this fried rice would taste mighty fine at closing time.

Kedai Makan on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hummingbird Saloon

The Hummingbird Saloon is a new bar in Columbia City and I am pretty darn excited about its existence. The bar is  owned by the same southend locals who own Full Tilt ice cream, and it is located right next door in the same "transitioning" parking lot a smidge south of the heart of Columbia City. The aim of the bar is to be a neighborhood hangout, and the proprietors have made all kinds of good decisions to make it so: cheap drinks, good food and games.

First item of business: The hummingbird has tasty, stiff,  $6 well cocktails, made with attention and care by a skilled and friendly bar tender.

Second: The Hummingbird Saloon is still working on building their menu, but has chosen to go the route of high quality food. In addition to a handful of salads, there are currently at least two satisfying vegetarian options on the menu, including a crumbly, spicy, savory scone with homemade marinara sauce for dipping (can be made with a homemade meatball if you eat meat), and a "Butter Pie," which is an intensely delicious, flaky-crust savory hand-pie filled with a confetti of chopped veggies, potatoes, and butter (of course there are meat pies as well, and a vegan and gluten-free option coming soon). The Hummingbird Saloon has an in-house baker who creates the baked goods, and I found both of these to be dangerously easy to eat alongside my drink. I'm excited to see how the food menu continues to fill out.

Third: The Hummingbird Saloon has shuffleboard. And pinball. And vintage video games. AND a giant chess set. 

There are a few additional things that I really appreciated about the Hummingbird Saloon, including the fact that the owners are dedicated to keeping music volumes low enough for conversation, there is a "phone booth" in which you can duck to get a little quiet to use your cell phone, it is clearly owned by real people who are dedicated to the vision of the approachable neighborhood bar, there is a good happy hour ($2.50 wells), the owners are aware of vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free needs and are giving good options that satisfy those restrictions, and it is in position to stretch the "cool" part of Columbia City another block or so to the south. 

I hope word spreads and folks are willing to venture a few paces south... this is just the sort of hangout that the neighborhood has been missing. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Northwest Tofu

Northwest Tofu is a dingy looking restaurant/factory on Jackson, near the Moonlight Cafe. I had long desired a trip to taste the fabled salt and pepper tofu, but had been thwarted by the lunch-oriented hours. The stars recently aligned, and I went in for a lunchtime feast. 

The restaurant was small and packed with people. The menu is loaded with tofu, but has a relatively small number of vegetarian and vegan options. My dining companion and I ordered vegetarian MaPo tofu, Chinese broccoli, and salt and pepper tofu. 

The dishes came to our table in a massively time staggered way. We received the broccoli first. It was mediocre in the MSG/cornstarch/oil sauce kind of way. 

Then came the mapo. I appreciated the addition of the edamame, and the tofu was silken and fresh, but this dish was also mediocre. Rather than spicy or rich, the sauce was excessively oily and laden with MSG. 

At first we attempted to nibble our first two dishes and save some appetite while we waited for the star to arrive. Unfortunately this took so long, we had polished off the broccoli and the MaPo by time it finally did. This was a shame, because the Salt and Pepper Tofu was truly a delicious, satisfying dish and I was too full to really enjoy it.

The Salt and Pepper tofu felt to me like a perfect vegetarian junk food, like the vegetarian equivalent of fried chicken on the comfort food satisfaction scale. The inside was custardy smooth and piping hot, and the outside a light and perfectly fried crust flavored with salt and pepper. If I were to visit NW Tofu again, it would be to order this dish.

I had high hopes for NW Tofu, and was a little disappointed to discover that most of the vegetarian options, with the exception of the delicious salt and pepper tofu, were somewhat mediocre. 

Northwest Tofu Inc. on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 5, 2012

El Camión

I had long heard about the mystical "best taco truck in Seattle" taco truck in the Home Depot parking lot in the far north (hinterland, from my native perspective) of Seattle. The truck is El Camión, and I am pleased to report that it was indeed fantastic.

If a taco truck can be judged by its salsas (and it can, IMHO), El Camión is in a very special league. In addition to the usual roasty red, and tomatillo green, and creamy thin avocado sauce, El Camión has a handfull of other hard to describe but fantastically delicious homemade salsas, all available on a "take as much as you desire" salsa bar (YES!).

I was hungry, and never fully knowing how large a taco truck taco is going to be, ordered four vegetarian tacos. I was shocked at the heft of the food I received. The hearty (vegan?) tacos were covered in stewed black beans, grilled veggies, and pico de gayo. I added a generous amount of salsa and pickled onions and found that two tacos made a filling meal.

El Camión is totally going to be a requisite stop any time I find myself in that neck of the woods! (An internet search indicates that there are additional locations in SODO and Ballard... got to investigate.)

El Camión on Urbanspoon