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Eatless in Seattle: A "rainy" Report (Long)


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Eatless in Seattle: A "rainy" Report (Long)

bb | Jul 10, 2004 01:00 PM

Report on a week's findings in Seattle (previous post URL below).
Expected great things but found little of interest. And was also laid low by one particularly noxious meal (or almond) early on. More info on that later.

The highlights were an early breakfast at a place called "The Hurricane", some good oysters, and a humble, but tasty beef pie in Canada in Manning Provincial Park (many miles to the north). These were the highlights(!)

Lowlights were . . . too numerous to mention (but I will).

Arrived Sunday. Walked in search of cask-conditioned real ale. Visited Six Flags to discover they had something called “nitro” . . . a dry stout. This is not what I call cask-conditioned, but it was actually not a terrible brew. After discovering Seattle streets are 45% gradients, always *up* . . . took a cab to another place (Toward Queen Ann Hill) which had loud rock music and zero cc ale. Left immediately and it is not worth naming.
Dinner at "Shuckers" at the Fairmont. The (Pacific) oysters were good, even if slightly unseasonal. Very salty and with that lovely "burst" of flavor only a good oyster in good condition can deliver when bitten down on. I nibbled on a few bar snacks (almonds and stuff).

Monday: Breakfast at International House of Pancakes in Issaquah. It was very difficult to order breakfast “sans” pancakes (they seemed truly hurt). Pretty awful. A man with a cell phone that rang every 2 minutes at 120dB did not help.

Lunch: Work so lunches not covered this week.

Dinner: Upon recommendation from the bartender @ the Fairmont sought out HillTop Ale House (Queen Ann). They DID have cask-conditioned ale. But it wasn’t much cop. Cloudy, underhopped, overly strong with alcohol for its character really. It was quite interesting neighborhood place with good people watching. I ordered some “halibut cakes” (shivers just to type this). These were sort of a Japo-Thaio-Chino-New-age fusion concept. You know the sort of thing. Bits of nuts. Cilantro. Pickled ginger. The whole works. Yes, it looked most of all like something a dog might upchuck (so did most everything they were serving up, and it has to be said they had a steady custom), and while it did not taste bad at the time, it did not really have anything to recommend it either. They were served with turmeric rice with uncooked turmeric. Awful flavor.

Let me add that here the entire events of the week turned. For by the next morning at 5am *something* had gone wrong with the inner workings. For the next 5 days mornings were spent . . . well you know. My wife discovered that there had been a salmonella scare in Washington state with almonds (the bar snacks?). But the halibut remained a grim memory too. Could 3 almonds destroy a (very robust) g-i-tract for a week? It might even have been the beer.

The remainder of the week still saw me gamely trying to Hound but with a depleted reserve of patience for Seattle cuisine. Nothing is more irritating if you are a bit “mal d’estomac” than olive bread, anything “drizzled” with anything, herb crusts, aged cheeses. All you want is a plain steak or a good honest piece of meat. Instead all you can find is yoghurt green peppercorn sauces from hell.

I had some meals at the Brasserie Margaux, at the Warwick. While not horrendous, they had nothing to recommend at all. The help (like many I found) seem anti-tourist even though I am pretty much of a "blend-in" guy and was in fact there on business. Perhaps more precisely they are anti "having to be a waitress/waiter"~a noble enough profession I think.

To be precise, BM's (!) lamb shank *was* horrendous. It looked (and tasted) like something out of an underkindled charnel house. Just ghastly and of course not served with a good meaty gravy but some awful fruity concoction.

The only salvation was The Hurricane. Seattle does not get up it seems until about 1030am. Thankfully The Hurricane is open 24 hours and the clerk at the hotel was a bit wary to recommend it “except it’s the only place open.” But when he said “but they do do a good breakfast” I said sign me up, in spite of his statement about “diverse clientele”. Early on a Saturday morning the clientele *is* diverse. Remnants from the previous night are snoozing away and a couple of leftist lesbians (I suppose there must be rightist lesbians about somewhere, but these were beret wearing soldiers of the left) were coming close to blows/tears as the alcohol slowly evaporated from their systems. The waitress was fetchingly attired in a variety of rings (tongue, belly) torn fishnets, and exposed midriff. While a bit early for this sort of thing, it was nothing to really complain about, and she was a personable young thing. The chow was good here. Great bacon (really good), and strong coffee. Several hopefuls came in hoping for the bar to be open (bear in mind, it's 700am) but apparently it is not absolutely 24/7 operation (the bar).

I made a return trip to the Fairmont and this time the bartender had changed making all the difference. The first chap was a sort of genial Rick Steves type and full of knowledge about local eats. Of course he also recommended the HillTop (stomach recoils in fear just typing that word). This fella did not seem to take to me again while treating obvious locals in quite a friendly manner. Oh well. Then a woman came in using a cell phone to talk to a variety of unfortunates she obviously habitually calls until they string themselves up “I’m at the Fairmont” I heard about 15 times. Oysters were good. I had some good king prawns and something else. Wine was good. Only the final tab was a bit of a shock. $150 for one.

I took a drive up through the pretty fruit-growing area to Canada. And I enjoyed most of all a lukewarm beef pie bought at the concession at Manning Provincial Park surrounded by a bevy of “Canada Day”-celebrating Canadians in lovely scenic splendor.

My final meal was at a place near Sea-Tac Stanford’s Restaurant and Bar. This place violates a rule I almost always find useful : do not eat at anywhere with an apostrophe s in its name. The only thing remarkable here was that I had three waitresses who looked almost identical. I was in a good mood and my stomach was back to normal. Unfortunately the food here was standard at best. One waitress made a big thing about not taking away an empty cocktail because there was a “little bit left” yet I never indicated to her that I cared whether she took it or not. She seemed determine to wind *herself* up about it anyway, and then me along with her! Oh yes, the remarkable thing was that I left the smallest tip I can ever remember leaving (I am always overgenerous unless severely tested: and these lot managed it). The place was half empty and the fact that they had to work on a holiday weekend obviously irritated the staff. Sorry!

I did spot a much more promising Indian Curry takeaway just across the street (a little south & east of this place). Consider following the “apostrophe-s” rule my friends.

Sorry Seattle, but more smoke & mirrors than real culinary expertise and refinement was on display where I was. Yes, having Dehli Behli does not help but still just combining a lot of “really cool and funky stuff” on a plate is not what a chef does, in fact it's what a two-year-old does.

It may be a while until halibut can be mentioned in my company.

Thanks for reading.

p.s. the weather at least was nice & sunny


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