Ask A Local Expert : SEATTLE

Seattle and Vancouver are more than Pacific Northwest neighbours. They’re kin. Coastal Cascadians Cousins. The bloodlines are shared via Pacific ports, forests and floatplanes. Caffeine courses through veins on both sides of the 49th, humble root vegetables, beautifully misshapen mushrooms and wild salmon are king (literally), and foraging is more than a pastime; it’s a sport, job and admired existence.

That said, we’re certainly not identical twins. Though Vancouver admittedly rocks Asian influenced dishes, Seattle trumps on Spanish flavours, donuts, markets and a growing cadre of young, experimental, fearless producer/entrepreneurers. And, of course, Tom Douglas. Washington’s craft distilleries are skilled and plentiful, Walla Walla rules the big reds (Sangiovese? Tempranillo? Si!) and microbreweries had growler stations before we familiarized the term.

In this new roaming series, Ask A Local Expert, I ask local food and drink experts in various cities around North America to share their insight and appetite.

 

Ron Zimmerman – Founder, The Herbfarm

1. Best new restaurant in Seattle (opened within last 12 months)?
The Whale Wins gets the buzz. And Jason Stratton’s Artusi is sure to make the list.

2. Your favourite standby, never disappointing restaurant/eatery?
Café Juanita

3. Best spot for quick bite (food trucks suggestions welcome)?
One of the El Camión Food Trucks for great tacos and tamales.

4. Most exciting winelist in Seattle right now?
Well, were one to measure by depth and breadth, I don’t think anyone else has 26,000 bottles, 4,300 selections, wines going back 40 years from the Pacific Northwest, and back to 1795 from around the world. That would be found at The Herbfarm. If that’s not what you have in mind as “most exciting,” then perhaps Stoneburner in Ballard, which has some fun, geeky glass and bottle selections for die-hard wine enthusiasts.

5. Best place to fuel your caffeine habit?
Stumptown Coffee Roasters

6. Best bar seat in Seattle?
You mean the coolest joint? The best pickup place (which, alas, I am no longer privy to)? The best cocktails? The best ambiance?? Vito’s is cool and retro, like a 50’s nightclub. Poppy has great drinks from interesting ingredients. Canon is probably the “most serious” Bar.

7. Hot ‘hood in town for food & drinks?
That’s a tossup between First Hill/Capitol Hill and Ballard. They’re running neck ‘n’ neck, near as I can tell.

8. Favourite local winery?
What’s Local? If Pacific Northwest, I’d pick one in Oregon just because those cool climate varietals are the day to day best matches to dinner. And, the community there is honest, soulful, helpful, and environmentally conscious. If Washington, that’s hard. Perhaps Sparkman Cellars: high quality and enough whites to supplement the reds, which is important. Few realize that white wines can express twice the aromatic range and flavors than can reds. Surely, the safest (though not trendy) choice would be the entire portfolio from Chateau Ste. Michelle. They are habitually underrated due to their size, but the quality and diversity is there.

9. Favourite local brewery?
Rogue Ales. They are one of the few breweries left in the world that actually malt their own barley and grow or control much of their ingredients.

10. Favourite local distillery?
Softail Spirits

11. Most welcome trend in Seattle dining?
More willingness to source locally, even in the “non-favorable” months. Tired, tired, tired of “trendy” mango this and that with everything. But then again, perhaps I’m a food crank. I don’t think it’s admirable that half of the recipes in the media these days call for Extra Virgin Olive Oil and/or lemon. People have forgotten their local oils/fats and acids. Dishes regress toward a flavor mean by using non-local, Mediterranean flavors to finish everything. Time to go back to duck fat, Crisco, lard, vegetable oils, verjus, cider vinegar, wine vinegars etc.

12. Your one favourite local ingredient?
Our wild mushrooms, one of the most diversified selections in the world.

~~

Erin Thomas – Editor-in-chief of Sip Northwest magazine

1. Best new restaurant in Seattle (opened within last 12 months)?
Fish is king – both The Whale Wins and RockCreek make seafood restaurants cool again.

2. Your favourite standby, never disappointing restaurant/eatery?
Quinn’s – highfalutin gastropub grub with an unassuming and friendly barstaff.

3. Best spot for quick bite (food trucks suggestions welcome)?
You can never go wrong with a Dick’s Deluxe.

4. Most exciting winelist in Seattle right now?
RN74 Seattle has compiled a list that gives respects to both local and worldwide wines. You can get a Greek Assyrtiko by the glass as easily as a German Riesling or a Washington Cab.

5. Best place to fuel your caffeine habit?
For a straight up cup of joe, Espresso Vivace’s walk-up stand on Capitol Hill is a win-win both for the roasting and the preparation. Milstead & Co. in Fremont is best for a variety of roasters and atmosphere.

6. Best bar seat in Seattle?
Liberty – watch several bartenders magically fit behind an eight-foot counter top that also has its own fresh sushi bar. Best Japanese malt whiskey selection and bartenders can create a drink for all, from the novice to the snob.

7. Hot ‘hood in town for food & drinks?
Capitol Hill and Ballard might have to fight to the death for the title. “They say” Greenwood and Pioneer Square are next.

8. Favourite local winery?
In Seattle proper, Cadence Winery. In Washington state, Cote Bonneville and Maison Bleue.

9. Favourite local brewery?
For good, reliable beer, you can’t go wrong with Fremont Brewing Co.

10. Favourite local distillery?
2Bar for bourbon, Captive Spirits for gin.

11. Most welcome trend in Seattle dining?
The throwback to rustic – both in food and decor. Homestyle cooking with simple meats and grains, pickling, handcrafted fare, along with indoor plants and wood in the interior design.

12. Your one favourite local ingredient?
Chanterelle mushrooms – I will eat them in everything when they are in season. Everything.

~~

Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen – Wine Director at RN74, founder of W.T. Vintners

1. Best new restaurant in Seattle (opened within last 12 months)?
Bakery Nouveau on Capitol Hill, the Twice Baked Almond Croissant is out of this world.

2. Your favourite standby, never disappointing restaurant/eatery?
Lecosho for the porchetta in any of its lunch or dinner iterations

3. Best spot for quick bite (food trucks suggestions welcome)?
Tacos El Asadero on Rainier is fast, cheap and delicious.

4. Most exciting winelist in Seattle right now?
I am certainly biased, but the depth of Northwest wines and Burgundy at RN74 is something I am very proud of.

5. Best place to fuel your caffeine habit?
Seattle Coffee Works

6. Best bar seat in Seattle?
Canon

7. Hot ‘hood in town for food & drinks?
Ballard just keeps open new restaurants and bars without any sign of slowing.

8. Favourite local winery?
Kerloo Cellars

9. Favourite local brewery?
While it’s nothing new to Seattle, Pike Brewery is always spot on and their Old Bawdy barley wine is incredible.

10. Favourite local distillery?
n/a

11. Most welcome trend in Seattle dining?
Chef Counters

12. Your one favourite local ingredient?
Spot Prawns

~~

Jameson Fink – Wine Editor at Foodista, Founder of jamesonfink.com

1. Best new restaurant in Seattle (opened within last 12 months)?
Looking into my crystal ball and seeing the opening of Aragona as the answer to this question.

2. Your favourite standby, never disappointing restaurant/eatery?
Il Corvo Pasta for lunch, La Bête for dinner. Need to live the dream and eat at both on the same day

3. Best spot for quick bite (food trucks suggestions welcome)?
Rancho Bravo for a burrito or Big Mario’s Pizza for a slice. If someone could combine the two, I’d never eat anywhere else.

4. Most exciting winelist in Seattle right now?
I like short, casual lists with something to pique my curiosity: Bottlehouse (thoroughly biased, because I help put it together), Bar Ferd’nand, Le Pichet

5. Best place to fuel your caffeine habit?
Porchlight Coffee and Records. They do the former and latter exceptionally well.

6. Best bar seat in Seattle?
Sun Liquor Lounge. Television-free, cozy neighborhood spot with great cocktails.

7. Hot ‘hood in town for food & drinks?
Capitol Hill

8. Favourite local winery?
Whidbey Island Winery. I have a soft spot for ferry rides that lead to Madeleine Angevine, Madeleine Sylvaner, and Siegerrebe.

9. Favourite local brewery?
Schooner Exact. IPA, Porter, and Brown are highlights. I also love their name.

10. Favourite local distillery?
Sun Liquor Distillery. (Now, with mini bottles for your travelling pleasure.)

11. Most welcome trend in Seattle dining?
Food trucks/pop-ups getting their own brick-and-mortar space

12. Your one favourite local ingredient?
Chanterelles. I’d say Rainier cherries from Eastern Washington, too. Local-ish?

~~

Chris Nishiwaki – Freelance food & wine writer, recent harvest newbie

1. Best new restaurant in Seattle (opened within last 12 months)?
RockCreek: Chef Eric Donnelly opened his much anticipated restaurant this spring. The open kitchen serves seafood and other specialties in their main dining room, the upstairs loft or on the outdoor deck (weather permitting).

2. Your favourite standby, never disappointing restaurant/eatery?
Terra Plata: The staples that Chef/owner Tamara Murphy transported from her previous restaurant, Brasa in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, remain the hallmark of the elevated comfort food menu at her current restaurant in Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market. The dishes include the buffalo burger, Moroccan steak sandwich and the roast pork.

3. Best spot for quick bite (food trucks suggestions welcome)?
Marination: Kalbi beef tacos marry a traditional Mexican dish with a Korean twist. For a heartier dish try the Kimchi rice bowl served with a sunny side egg. Find the truck by following them on Twitter (@curb_cuisine) or head to either of their bricks-and-mortar locations; The Station on Capitol Hill or Ma Kai on Alki with a stunning view of Elliott Bay and the Downtown Seattle skyline.

4. Most exciting winelist in Seattle right now?
Nell’s Restaurant: Chef/owner Philip Mihalski doubles as the wine buyer at this gem of a restaurant facing scenic Greenlake. Mihalski has built a wine list that includes tightly allocated from French producers such as Latour, Haut Brion, Laflaive, Coche-Dury, Dauvissat, Ravenau and Domaine Romanee Conti as well as domestic, including Quilceda Creek, Betz and Cayuse.

5. Best place to fuel your caffeine habit?
Milstead & Co in Fremont: this off-the-beaten-path coffee shop sources coffee from producers all around the country, including Victoria’s Bows and Arrows, Chicago’s Intelligentsia and Portland’s Stumptown

6. Best bar seat in Seattle?
Canlis: barstools at the Canlis bar at highly coveted. There are only three. More importantly, barman James McWilliams deftly crafts cocktails to each guests needs, from 20-something hipsters to blue hairs who have been bringing three generations of their families to the venerable restaurant that has been in business for over 60 years

7. Hot ‘hood in town for food & drinks?
Pioneer Square: trendy neighborhoods rotate in popularity and it is Pioneer Square’s renaissance with restaurateurs leading the way opening second, third and fourth restaurants in the neighborhood, including Matt Dillon’s Bar Sajor, Russell Flint’s Rainshadow Meats, Wiley Frank’s Little Uncle (perhaps, the best Thai restaurant in Seattle) and Mike Easton’s Il Corvo.

8. Favourite local winery?
Novelty Hill/Januik: the sister wineries share a sprawling winery replete with a tasting room, private event spaces, a wood fired oven and a bocce ball court.

9. Favourite local brewery?
Pike Brewing Co.: Charles and Rose Ann Finkel are the deans of the Seattle microbrew movement making craft beers since the 1980s.

10. Favourite local distillery?
Glass Distillery: founder Ian MacNeil crafts an ultra-smooth and elegant vodka. Their SoDo District tasting room is open by appointment via e-mail, tastings@glassdistillery.com.

11. Most welcome trend in Seattle dining?
Diversification: with demand for specialized high tech talent being, well, high, local companies are recruiting techies from around the world. The diversification of the local population has driven demand for cuisines the world over.

12. Your one favourite local ingredient?
Blue Pool Oysters by Hama Hama: these briny and bright nuggets of culinary joy massage the palate with its silky texture and beg for the next one with its minerally finish redolent of the ocean.

 

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade. In addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for WineAlign, ...

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