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