My boyfriend and I visited his parents in the Pacific Northwest the week before Christmas and we had already planned much of our meals weeks ahead of time, which to me is the best way to plan a trip. We started out in Seattle for two days, and moved on to the Tri-Cities where his parents lived, and ended up back in Seattle for our last meals. After some luggage mishaps, we set out to dinner at Dahlia Lounge after a visit to the Space Needle. I’ve been excited to go to a Tom Douglas restaurant for awhile now, and though I’ve read negative posts about his empire, I always like to check out successful restaurateurs in every city I visit. The space is beautiful, very festive with holiday decorations, and dahlias everywhere. We started with an amuse bouche of diced grapefruit and cucumber marinated in a citrus- sesame seed oil, finished with sesame seeds, which was as unusual as delicious. We shared three starters, ricotta dumplings with braised chicken, leeks, and I think Pecorino, duck confit with herbed waffles, apples, and fennel, and shrimp and scallion potstickers with black vinegar- soy dipping sauce. The dough of the potstickers was different from Chinese or Korean dumplings, a little thicker and more pasta-like, but the filling of whole small shrimp was very good with the slightly spicy sauce. The ricotta dumplings were very delicate and seemed to melt on the tongue, and the dish as a whole was the most successfully seasoned, though the duck confit with waffles was the table favorite, with rich, crispy shards of duck and the warm, slightly vegetal waffle that was undercut nicely by the fresh produce. For entrées, we had the pan –roasted Idaho trout with Brussels and brown butter spaetzle, topped with a hazelnut gremolata, which was wonderful and very generously portioned, five-spice duck with flatbread, spicy cabbage, and curried lentils, which was ridiculously generous, probably half a duckling, and Berkshire rack of pork and Dungeness crab cakes, which were both thoroughly enjoyed by their diners. For dessert, we shared the cinnamon sugar doughnuts with mascarpone and cranberry jam, which were light and just yeasty enough, and the chocolate caramel tart with malted peanut butter ice cream and fudge, which was quite decadent after our meal, and the ice cream had already started to melt on its way to our table, but we still managed to finish every bite. We had a bottle of McCrea Mourvedre with dinner, and it worked with most of our selections and was delicious, lots of fruit, and a fragrant nose.
The next day, we spent the morning at the Pike Place Market, having a quick breakfast at Piroshky Piroshky; the smoked salmon pate piroshky was the best, though the rhubarb one had the comfort of homemade pie in the convenience of a handheld pastry. After a lot of shopping, stocking up on local products of preserves, pickles, smoked salmon, and the like, we had a light lunch at Beecher’s before our Savor Seattle Food Tour later that afternoon. The grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese are justly popular, while their Flagship cheese provides tasty contribution to both. After a break from eating, we started on our tour, which is a guided walking tour from Savor Seattle, with nine stops at restaurant and specialty shops, and several wine and beer tastings included. As a whole, I was very glad to have taken the tour, and there were a number of very memorable stops. The first was Andaluca, a tapas restaurant where we had sangria and a delicious crispy duck cake. This was seasoned with cumin and coriander, rolled in bulgar and fried, with raita and apricot chutney, and the richness and gaminess of the duck were accented by the spices, and tempered by the yogurt and fruit. The next was Serious Pie, another Tom Douglas spot, where we had a classic Margarita and one with chanterelles and truffle cheese, which I preferred. The crust for both was perfect, with a slight salt and consistent crisp texture; we learned that the bottom of the crust is dusted with Murray River Salt, a salt that I love, though use sparingly. Place Pigalle was the other highlight, which incidentally uses Murray River salt as their table salt, where we sampled their mussels with bacon, shallots, celery, and balsamic vinaigrette, and Six Prong Chardonnay. The mussels were well cooked and the balsamic vinaigrette made an unusual but well matched addition to the cream sauce, adding a layer of sweetness that accentuated the mussels and of richness that interplayed with the bacon. The other stops had their own edible charms, but these restaurants stood out for the quality of their food, and each had a little twist to dishes that are becoming more commonplace. Because dining out can become monotonous, restaurants become complacent, and to experience that element of surprise again, an ingredient or a flavor combination that is unexpected but makes you smile, it is refreshing and it makes the experience all the more of an adventure. After the tour, we drove to Richland to try to beat the storm, and had a midnight snack of Seattle goodies and wine and rested up for the next few days of wining and dining, which will be in Part II.
These are all the photos throughout the trip, with Dahlia Lounge starting at the bottom: