Friday, August 29, 2008

Molly Moon's

Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream is the new Ice Cream place in Wallingford that boasts (in a non-boastful way) homemade, local, organic ice cream with local, organic interesting flavours in a hip setting.
I was drawn to the place by one detail especially: Salted Caramel Ice Cream. I am a caramel fanatic and know the pleasures of a little salt. So I made the pilgrimage up to Wallingford with a friend and our bicycles on one of the apparent last sunny days of summer.

It was also a Saturday. And the line was out the door and down the block. This is enough to turn me around unless I'm on a specific mission, which I was, so we stood in line in the cramped space (which one might possibly want to hang out in, per Molly Moon's vision, if it wasn't so crowded) and snaked our way to the ice cream counter.

In a last minute fluster, something took over my mind and ordered Scout Mint as my bottom scoop, which wasn't in the original plan, with a scoop of Salted Caramel on top. Molly has the option of "kids" scoops, which were smaller than adult scoops (though still plenty large), which allowed me to manage two flavours. I also got a waffle cone, which they were making fresh behind the counter in a bloom of sweet delicious aroma.

There was such a build up to the moment of ingestion that I was brought back to reality pretty quick: It was just ice cream. Yes, very delicious, homemade, conscientious, love filled, good for the environment, interesting flavours, ice cream, but still, ice cream.

My first scoop, the Salted Caramel, was really quite salty. It had a delicious burned sugar caramel flavour that I really enjoyed, but the constant salt was a bit harsh. I've since read many reviews that mention a similar thing, and agree with oft mentioned perspective that it would have been better had the salt been confined to veins, or crystals, so that you could experience the delight of coming upon a bit of salt, rather than slowing burning your tongue on every lick.

It would have been more pleasureable had I chosen a better flavor to temper it with, but I ended up eating the two flavours separately. The mint was quite mild in comparison, but good enough.

My friend ordered a scoop of Chocolate and a scoop of Salted Caramel. Unfortunately, they had gotten behind on the waffle cone production and she would have had to wait 7 minutes while they made some more, so she got her ice cream in a little compostable bowl instead.
The chocolate was deliciously rich and chocolately, and the bowl arrangement allowed her to eat her scoops together and the chocolate complimented the Salted Caramel well.

One very cool detail is that everything at Molly Moon's is compostable, from the spoons to the cups, so instead of garbage cans, they had only compost bins. I loved that.

Some other flavours they had: balsamic strawberry, honey lavender, bubblegum, green tea, vanilla, fresh cherry, etc, as well as a couple flavours of vegan sorbet. I was excited about trying "Thai Iced Tea," flavor, which I had read about on their website, but unfortunatly it seemed to have been replaced with the more common Green Tea.

I'm looking forward to going back at some point and trying some more flavours, quite possibly on a cold day in the middle of the week when the line isn't so long. Perhaps as the place becomes more established, the staff will become more efficient too.

Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream
(206) 547-5105
1622 N 45th St
Seattle, WA 98103

Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 25, 2008


A dear friend recently moved back to the United States after many years away. To celebrate, we went to Sutra, a newish vegetarian restaurant in Wallingford.

There are quite a few things about Sutra that make it special:

1. It is prix fix
2. The menu changes frequently (maybe ~weekly?)
3. There are 2 seatings a night
4. The restaurant is very small, perhaps able to seat only 25 or so at the communal tables per seating, and the kitchen is located in the same room as the dining (which makes for bit of a noisy experience)

In addition to beer and wine, there is an impressive and changing list of non-alcoholic drinks ($3) to start with. I ordered a fresh peach and butterscotch melon juice, and she ordered ginger limeade with basil. They came in pretty glasses and were an enjoyable way to start the meal process.
Spicy ginger lime basil, and frothy peach melon

Before the first course was served, the cook rang a gong to quiet our chatter, and proceeded to say a few words about being thankful for all of the steps that your food takes to get to you. Then he brought out the first course, which was a patty pan squash stuffed with the most delicious almond and roasted chili mixture in a smoked tomato sauce with fresh basil. I think that of all the fantastic things I tasted during this meal, this stuffing was the most spectacular.
The next dish that came was a salad of lightly wilted arugula, cucumber, heirloom cherry tomatoes and arame in a spicy wasabe sesame dressing. With the exception of the arame, which we both had to choke down due to its rather pronounced ocean flavour, the salad was excellent. It took us a few bites to realize the heat was coming from the wasabe and not from exceptionally spicy arugula, and the compliment of spice from the two was wonderful.
The main course tonight was tricky, as it was a combination of my two least favorite common vegetarian main dishes: eggplant and portabello. Luckily, the cooks are able to accommodate the occasional dislike if you call ahead of time to give them ample notice. So for me, they substituted in squash for the other two vegetables. It came battered in coconut, then served in a beautiful stack with steamed basil spinach. On the plate there was a big scoop of carrot leaf sauce, almost like soup, then a swirl of what tasted like reduced raspberry balsamic.
The savory coconut crust was an amazing combination of light, rich and crunchy, and the basil spinach was delicious. I really was impressed with all of the flavors in the main dish. It was beautifully presented too.

For dessert, we had a fantastic blueberry, ginger lime tarte with a homemade graham cracker crust. It was served with a sweet swirl of vanilla bean infused mirin.
We were really impressed with this place. The experience of a prix fixe meal is one a vegetarian doesn't often get to indulge in, and it was so fun and luxurious to get to partake. The food was absolutely created by somebody who views cooking as an art, and each dish was an expert combination of flavours, textures and colors.

We also loved the way the place worked: the fact that there were just two seatings and one menu a night kept the restaurant waste to virtually none. They change the menu with the seasons and the whims of the chefs, so produce is highlighted when it is most delicious. While we were there, a couple large flats of tiny hot peppers were delivered straight from an organic farm, and they were whisked away by the ecstatic chef who was excited to dry them and use them through out the winter.

If there was a downside to the place, it would be that the love for the food and process might be a bit overwhelming to the diner looking to have a private dinner without the inturuption of the chef coming by to have you smell a delicious melon or a whif of their freshly roasted coffee beans. But somehow those details didn't bother us too much, perhaps because it was clear that the slight theatrics were clearly, truly heartfelt.

Sutra is indeed the result of much culinary love and awareness and respect for food and the earth. The dining room/kitchen is small, and it felt almost like being at a very tasty dinner party of some highly passionate and well skilled friends.

Excellent new addition to the world of Seattle restaurants!


1605 N 45th St
Seattle, WA 98103

Sutra  on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


There is a new restaurant in the sunlit corner that has been the transient home to a variety of restaurants and coffee shops in the last many years, most recently to the ill fated Susan's Bistro.

The new place is called Saffron, and was opened by the same folks who own the "both polished and neighborly" Dulce Latin Bistro in Madrona. Saffron seems to be created from a similar mold. They've changed around the inside of the restaurant a bit, and now use white table clothes and stemmed glasses for water. The menu is of a Latin persuasion too.
Photo courtesy voracious

After a recent feat of athleticism, some hungry dining companions and I settled in to the outside tables in the small Saffron veranda for brunch.

The menu had a nice handful of brunch options, many of which are suitable for a vegetarian who likes eggs. For the vegetarian who doesn't like eggs, there are sweeter options, oatmeal topped with fruits and nuts, french toast with fruit compote, etc, and the possibility of modifying the Pueblo Pancakes to exclude the fried eggs.

The Pueblo Pancakes ($8) are listed as spicy cornmeal pancakes made with green chilies and black olives, then topped with a couple fried eggs and sour cream and fresh salsa. I asked to substitute the eggs with black beans (which I noticed as present on the brunch menu with a different item), which was no problem.

I was pretty excited about the idea of spicy corn pancakes. I don't tend to like the sugar overload that comes with regular pancakes in the morning, but I love cornmeal and peppers and so these sounded spectacular.
The meal came and the first thing I noticed, perhaps because of the afore mentioned feat of athleticism, was the fancy-restaurant portions and ratios. The pancakes were on the small side, and the salsa was more of a garnish than the slather I'd envisioned. I piled the beans and smeared the sour cream and rationed the salsa between bites and it was quite delicious, though not quite as corn-y or as spicy or copious as I would have preferred.
The tasty meal disappeared quickly, and I was left a bit on the hungry side still. I realize that the dish would have been made heartier if it had two eggs on top, but I had hoped that the beans would adequately supplement. I believe the portion sizes were the main gripe of our hungry table.

I feel a little bit weird writing this review... like maybe it isn't fair to walk into a fancy place fantasizing about Denny's style portions, then complain about the quantity. But still.

I wonder if Seward Park can sustain the "polish" that Madrona can. It will be interesting to see.

On the bright side: wonderful idea with the Pueblo Pancakes. Just make them twice as: spicy, cornmeal-y, salsa-y, bean-y, large, and I'll be a happy diner.

5100 S. Dawson St.
Suite 100
Seattle, WA 98118

Saffron on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 8, 2008

TIG Asian Tapas Bar

After walking around the Art Walk in Pioneer Square all evening, my friend and I were suddenly hit with what felt like a crippling hunger. I could hardly look at another lovely painting for want of nourishment, and the bowls of gallery pretzels had long before been reduced to crumbs.

So we went walking around looking for a place to eat. I got into a ridiculous mode that I enter when I am especially hungry that makes me want to keep going and see "what else" is out there in restaurant world. After a lot of walking around, and a pitstop at the Dry Soda tasting room, we came across TIG Asian Tapas Bar.
Mmm... Dry Soda. So much tastier than regular soda, and with such classy marketing.

The menu pasted in the window at TIG devoted a large section to describing the (high) quality of their tofu, and we decided immediately to go in. It felt a little bit fancy, and had some cool details inside included: bathrooms with one way glass separating them from the rest of the restaurant and waterfall sinks with joystick triggers. But it couldn't get too fancy with windows and doors facing an often unappetizing street scene in Pioneer Square, and the prices were surprisingly reasonable. The menu was broken into sections based upon price, starting at $2, and ranging to $12.

We'd assumed tapas portions, and ordered 2 items a piece. First to come was a big bowl of bibim noodles. They were cold, skinny noodles in a spicy red sauce with bits of cabbage and other veggies. They tasted truly vegetarian.
We really put the camera phone to the test.

Next came the Tofu with kimchee. It was another cold, surprisingly large portion of sliced soft tofu covered in kimchee and spicy red vinegary sauce. The kimchee exploded in a sour almost citrusy burst with every bite, and was quite delicious. Unfortunately, the occasional piece had a pretty seriously fishy flavour, and I became weary and stopped eating it.

Next we ate bean curd paste soup, which was essentially a spicy, hearty miso broth with hot cubes of soft tofu, potato chunks, cabbage, and other vegetables. It also tasted vegetarian.

And last came the almost comically huge plate of kimchee pancakes. As with all of the portions so far, it wildly exceeded our expectations. It was pretty tasty too... kimchee bound by some sort of bready binder and deep fried. It came with a soy dipping sauce. It is hard to go wrong with these particular ingredients, especially deep fried. I did taste some of the fishy flavour in the kimchee though, and ate more sparingly once I detected that.
I didn't have the chance to talk to our waiter about what was truly vegetarian, as he was entirely unfamiliar with the menu and disinterested in checking with anybody who knew. For example:

Me: What is a "tig burrito"?
Him: I don't know
Me: ...
Him: ...
But it was a fun evening, and I enjoyed getting to partake in a little vegetarian Korean food, even if it wasn't completely smooth sailing. My friend had some familiarity with authentic Korean cooking, and his impression was that it wasn't exactly authentic here, but the portions were impressive and it was good enough.

Thanks K for the pictures!

TIG Asian Tapas Bar
(206) 332-0844
614 1st Ave
Seattle, WA 98104

TIG Asian Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 4, 2008

Zao Noodle Bar

I have an unhealthy relationship with Zao Noodle Bar in U-Village. It started a LONG time ago, once upon a time, when I ordered their Ginger-Garlic-Chili Chicken and Prawns, minus the Chicken and Prawns, and it was really really good. I won't go into the details, because it only happened that way once.

Every subsequent visit I've ordered the same thing, paying the premium price for the absent Chicken and Prawns ($11.50), with a retarded optimism that is, without exception, crushed by the reality of a meal dramatically inferior to the memory.

Still I went back again today. I was in the neighborhood on my bike, really hungry, and once again had a huge and irrational level of excitement about going to Zao. I was seated outside at a table in the blazing sun on this unusually warm day (was I seated there because I was dining alone? Maybe). I started to get hot, really hot. I could have asked to be moved, but I think I was afraid of disrupting the already tenuous magic I was hoping for (Note to self: You should have moved.)

Looking at the menu today I had an exciting realization: I could order the Monk's Vegetarian Delight, which in theory comes with: tofu, mushrooms, zucchini, green beans and yellow squash, and their fat shanghai noodles, and special order the addition of the garlic-ginger-chili sauce. Cost: $9, a full $2.50 better than paying for ghost meat in the Ginger-Garlic-Chili Chicken and Prawns and essentially the same dish.

I was becoming delirious with anticipation and slightly nauseous as I sat in the sun absorbing heat from the dark metal railing that my sweaty arm and back were pressed against. I am not a women with ample folds/valleys in my physique, but those that I do have were cascading with sweat."Confucius Say" style wit and wisdom on the t-shirt of every employee, and on the sanitary wrapper of every outside chopstick

When my meal came, it was a disappointment from first glance. Where were the vegetables? There was, for certain, no spinach involved. There were perhaps 4 green beans (a generous estimate), and the rest of the meager vegetable supply was paper thin slices of zucchini and yellow squash. There were a hand full of sizable mushroom chunks, but in a fault that is my own I left those in a little pile on my place. The sauce was oily and yes, spicy, but not in a way that made sense. There wasn't much flavour in the sauce. The noodles were large, but somehow there wasn't much pleasure in eating them.
This picture was taken with my laptop, which I took out of my backpack and held up like a steroidal camera trying to aim at my food. Classy and discrete.

But I ate the whole dang plate anyway (minus the mushrooms). The waitress came by and tried to take it away as I was still chasing tiny nubs of noodles with my sweaty chopsticks, and I wouldn't let her. My behavior didn't even make sense to me.

After I ate I ambled bench to bench in U-Village, resting, finding reasons to hangout a little longer, until I realized I was more or less trapped in the village by my gluttony induced laziness. It might be a fantasy of some to be trapped in this particular locale, but I am too frugal to enjoy that fantasy and forced myself back on my bike and began the long process of pedaling home.

For the sake of putting something useful in this post, I must announce: Zao does have multiple vegetarian (and even vegan) options on their menu. And as I write this, I have the urge to say that the food is actually pretty decent. It makes me wonder if I've picked up a Zao friendly parasite that is directing my behaviors.

Zao Noodle Bar
(206) 529-8278
2630 NE University Village Street
Seattle, WA 98105

Zao Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 1, 2008

Claim Jumper

Celebrated a special birthday recently at the Claim Jumper in South Center, per the birthday girls request. I had never been there before, but the reputation of huge portions and the promise of a gigantic slice of chocolate cake called the Chocolate Motherload had already been injected into my mind somewhere in my lifetime.

Started off with a side salad. It was lightly dressed with my favorite kind of ranch... not sweet, not even tangy, just creamy and good, and had a nice selection of vegetables including strips of shredded zucchini. The croutons were very sweet and seemed to have been made out of dried cake, which was a pretty weird surprise at first taste that I could have done without.
That's a blue cheese iceburg wedge in the background

As could be imagined, there weren't a ton of vegetarian choices, but certainly enough to get full and to satisfy a variety of moods. There is, of course, the option of getting a number of meat dishes ("dinner" salads, pastas, etc) without meat in them, but I need to be really desperate or inspired (or obsessed) to pay full meat price for a dish void of its most expensive ingredient. So instead I ordered a vegetable loaded baked potato off of the Healthy Choices section of the menu.
Looking at this plate now, I realize I should have eaten the leaf on the left, which I instead ignored

It was supposed to come loaded with roasted vegetables, melted cheese, and salsa, and it half-way delivered. The vegetables on top, various squashes and carrots, were steamed, not roasted, and the melted cheese was almost invisible to both eye and tongue. The salsa was so-so: visually appealing and spicy, but wasn't all that interesting flavour wise. After eating the vegetables off the top, I used the birthday girl's pot of unused honey butter and turned the rest of my ginormous potato into a makeshift sweet potato casserole.

To begin our dessert experience, we told the waiter about the birthday and he brought us a free slice of Cookies and Cream ice cream pie.
After the free dessert, we still needed more, but our ability to handle the Motherload had dwindled, and so we ordered the "Worlds Smallest Sundae," whose name alone is ripe for psychological analysis. I have my ideas, what are yours?

I had been preparing all day for an evening of American-style overindulgence (including pushing myself out into the rain for a bike ride), but left the place feeling remarkably underindulged. Didn't over do it on food, didn't over do it on dessert. Got a fair share of vegetables and nothing too gross.

On the way out of the restaurant they had a little station with a basket of tiny unnaturally perfectly shaped Red Delicious apples, and baskets of rootbeer barrel candies.
I took a couple candies, which I managed to loose by time I got to the car, and a couple mini apples, which I brought home and washed with soap then ate.

As could be expected, my main gripe about this place is the too much sub-par food for too much money paradigm, which is both a popular gripe and a popular paradigm depending on who you talk to. But still the evening was fun. We had a highbacked booth, our little mini world, and there were enough tables in the small Claim Jumper Villiage that I didn't feel guilty sitting back and talking long after our food was done.

Happy Birthday T!