Wednesday, December 29, 2010

St. Dames

I recently went to St. Dames, the new vegetarian restaurant in Columbia city, to celebrate my birthday. This means I was poised to order everything from drinks to dessert and I had my expectations set high. Upon entering the restaurant, I was excited to see that the owners had done a pleasing job of creating a cozy, stylish, hip ambiance with plenty of booths, art, and careful lightening, none of which was a given considering the location in the somewhat characterless new mixed-use buildings just north of the Columbia City Light Rail station.

We started with drinks, and I ordered the St. Cinnamon, one of many tasty sounding specialty cocktails offered in addition to a full bar. It was made with muddled pear, bourbon, and cinnamon infused simple syrup, and was just the sort of slightly spicy, slightly fruity cocktail that I love. And for a fancy bar drink, it was reasonably priced too at $8.

If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you are probably aware of the rarity of looking at a menu on which every item is actually available to you. The need to *choose* something off of a menu is an unaccustomed pleasure, and I scratched my head for a good long while as I debated the merits of just about every delicious looking item offered. I ended up choosing a butternut squash gnocchi with a side of braised kale, and my dining companion ordered a portobello cheese steak sandwich on homemade baguette. Both were delicious, wholesome and beautiful. YES.

Gnocchi with grilled vegetables, toasted hazelnuts and feta cheese along side a huge delicious mound of lightly braised, wonderfully seasoned kale.

Just about every item on the menu is either vegan, or can be made vegan. Many items are gluten free. They bake all of their own (deliciously gluten-filled) bread. They allow you to substitute side dishes however you desire, which is pretty exciting because I want to try just about every one of them: braised kale, whipped veggies, french fries, roasted vegetables, etc. AND, they are doing everything with an eye towards sustainability.

Marinated portobellos, grilled peppers and onions, melted provolone and lettuce on a fresh homemade baguette, along side fries and what tasted like homemade ketchup.

The gals running the place were so friendly and hard working it made me love it all even more. I get the feeling they are still refining aspects the menu and service, but they were completely sweetly accommodating to my requests (for example, butter for my bread).

Chocolate mousse pie (vegan, I think), with a nice optional dollop of real whipped cream.

I can't say enough good things about this place. The last time I got my hopes up for a new vegetarian restaurant was for Plum, which was so dissapointing on my visit I've not given it a second chance. The fact that St. Dames is in my own neighborhood is just icing on the cake.

When people ask me "What do vegetarians eat?" I'd like to steer them right on over to St. Dames, where the dishes are composed to stand on their own as complete, delicious, and not based around re-creating meat dishes with manufactured meat substitutes. It's the kind of food I would cook at home if I had endless time and skill to put into it, and I am absolutely thrilled to have these gals willing and able to do it for me!

I really really wish success for this place, go there and eat and let me know what you think.

St. Dames on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Essential Baking Company

I had lunch recently at the Georgetown Essential Baking company, where I was treated to the lamest Caprese sandwich I have ever had. It is hard to knock the place because the staff was so friendly, but really this was ridiculous.

The small sandwich cost around seven dollars, which isn't exactly peanuts. The bread was fresh, as it should have been in a bakery, but the laughable innards of the sandwich consisted of one extra thin slice of coldcut style mozzarella, a piece of mealy tomato, and a couple of soggy basil leaves. One side of the bread had a faint drizzle of balsamic vinegar, the other was dry. WTF.
I know it isn't exactly summertime, so it is unrealistic to hope for garden fresh tomatoes. But this doesn't excuse the fact that they couldn't muster a couple of slices of thick fresh mozzarella or some additional sauce (more vinegar? olive oil? a nice pesto?) for the bread. Plus, for the price, the danged plate could have used some chips.

Essential Baking Company on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 17, 2010

King of Pho

I am always interested in restaurants in the outer reaches of our area, especially those that make good post outdoor activity dinner stops. Post outdoor activity dinners hold tremendous amounts of promise: You are hungry, you are tired, and you've likely just used up a zillion calories and thereby feel indulgent. Yet many of the "on the way home" options turn out to be somewhat disappointing.

A recent ski day at Crystal Mountain prompted dinner at King Pho in Auburn, which came highly recommended by my meat eating dining companion.

I was pleased to see that there were indeed vegetarian options, including a tofu vermicelli bowl. I decided to order a little outside of my usual Vietnamese arsenal and got "Green beans and mushrooms with tofu". A quick chat with the waitress about not-frying the tofu revealed that she didn't speak English, and I decided not to engage on the "Is the Pho broth vegan? Does the bun sauce have fish in it? Can I have broccoli instead of mushrooms?" chain of inquiry. Those questions remain a mystery at King of Pho.

My dinner was somewhat blah. The quantity of real food was pretty small, though there was a hefty scoop of rice on the plate. The green beans were cooked nicely, but the sauce was nothing special.
That said, I can understand the carnivorous enthusiasm for the place. For the same price as my meager, boring plate, a duck eater received a giant steaming bowl of fragrant duck noodle soup, a plate covered in a beautiful plentiful pile of some sort of papaya salad , artfully composed with seared duck and caramelized shallots.

After dinner I was still hungry and demanded a sharp turn into a Dairy Queen, dethroned in Seattle but still reigning outside the city. I have childhood memories of the Peanut Buster Parfait as the only junk-food treat my mother ever showed interest in, and it was thus cemented in my mind as really top notch. Sure, the new menu requirements reveal the fact that a single Peanut Buster Parfait contains 700 calories, but I rationalized that I probably needed those calories and enjoyed the heck out of it anyhow.

King of Pho on Urbanspoon

Dairy Queen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Georgetown Liquor Company

I'm going to take a moment here and say, again, how much I enjoy the Georgetown Liquor Company (I've written about it before, here). Every time I go I am thrilled with the breadth and deliciousness of the vegetarian (and very vegan friendly) menu.

On a recent trip, I ordered a Lowell Sandwich, which was a complete delight of vegetarian "ham", green chilies, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, baby greens and chipotle veganaise on a toasted whole wheat hoagie roll. I had a choice of sides: soup, salad, or chips and salsa, and chose the salad, which was large and perfectly dressed with homemade vinaigrette and shaves of Parmesan.
My dining companion ordered the Portobello Salad, which was the biggest salad I've ever seen in a restaurant. It was a beautiful, enormous pile of baby greens, gouda, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and delicious marinated slices of portobello mushroom. I don't generally like mushrooms, and portobellos are no exception, but here they were so perfectly seasoned and marinated that even I enjoyed a taste.
The ambiance of the Georgetown Liquor Company is a little brooding, with black walls and dark themed art, and is the sort of place where I might be initially skeptical about the state of the kitchen. But I have been completely consistently impressed with the food that they make, and would even go so far as to say it's just as good as any other vegetarian restaurant I've been to in Seattle.

I love the Georgetown Liquor Company!

Georgetown Liquor Company on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Social restaurant feasts seem to involve sushi these days in my world, the most recent of which was a celebratory evening at Kisaku in the mysterious Tangletown neighborhood near Greenlake.

The group began with a bunch of appetizers, two of which were somewhat appropriate for a vegetarian: edamame and agedashi tofu, which came covered in bonito flakes. When I order agedashi tofu for myself, I'm always careful to specify that I'd like it without the bonito. On this occasion I simply scraped it off and continued to eat the lightly battered tofu.

While the rest of the table ordered platter after platter of creature based sushi, I secured myself a nice little supply of vegetarian goodies: Tofu Dengaku: tofu in a (surprisingly sweet) red miso sauce, a $1.50 Kobachi salad with a scoop of mashed potatoes, and a beautiful Devil's vegetarian role that had an outer skin of marinated, fried eggplant.

It can be tricky with Japanese food to get seemingly meat free options truly free of fish products, but these all seemed to be genuinely vegan (with the exception of the mashed potatoes, which might have had some mayonnaise in them). It was nice to have some unusual options!

Kisaku on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Taqueria El Rinconsito

In honor of a recent visit from my lovely out of town sister, my aunt and uncle treated us to a midday feast at their favorite Mexican Restaurant in Burien: Taqueria El Rinconsito. Off the bat, Taqueria El Rinconsito passed the first superficial test for Mexican Restaurant promise: the place was full of Spanish speaking patrons.

The menu is mostly meat based with only cheese enchiladas as a vegetarian option, but the staff was friendly and happy to oblige my request to put some beans in there too.

The taqueria also gloriously passed test number two, the salsa bar. I am an absolute salsa bar fiend, and was immediately swooning (discretely) over what I saw:
Four types of delicious, spicy, varied blended salsas ranging from sweet to smoky, some sort of pico de gayo that was cabbage based and outstanding, pickled carrots and jalapenos, fresh radishes and lime wedges.

Next was the third test, the agua frescas:
I have yet to see a more complete display of these sweet tasty beverages. Taqueria El Rinconsito has horchata (rice milk with cinnamon), Tamarindo (tamarind), Guayaba (guava), Jamaica (hibiscus), and mango. I had a taste of each, but ultimately decided the creamy horchata would best sooth the burning mouth I was so looking forward to from the salsa bar.

My meal was huge and delicious. I'm still not sure what to call this style of Mexican food... it is usually referred to as "family style" but that doesn't say much. On my plate of 3 enchiladas made with fresh tortillas and delicious rich red sauce, I also had a scoop of well seasoned yellow rice and a pile of whole beans (made without lard).

Taqueria El Rinconsito isn't exactly classy-date in ambiance, but it is full of natural light, clean enough and the food is fresh, delicious and inexpensive.

Thanks K & M for the wonderful afternoon!

Taqueria El Rinconsito on Urbanspoon