Luc

Rating:

All the parents we know have given us the same advice: “watch movies and go out to dinner as much as you can before the baby arrives.” Given that Lauren and I watch at most a few movies each year, we’ve been focusing on the other half of the guidance. Tonight we took advantage of our beautiful July 4th weekend weather and took a walk down to Luc.

Luc is the casual bistro that Thierry Rautureau (of Rover’s fame) opened last May, while we were away on our sabbatical. There is a long, narrow dining room surrounding a large bar along with seasonal patio dining. While I liked the indoor space a lot, we couldn’t pass up an outdoor table with weather like today’s.

Suli, our waiter, was very warm, friendly, and knowledgeable. At his suggestion I started with a glass of rosé and a cup of bing cherry gazpacho. It was a great summer-time pairing. The gazpacho was amazing – a smooth mix of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, celery, garlic, chilies, and bing cherries. And it did go quite well with the rosé.

Based on recommendations I’ve been meaning to try Luc’s burger, but tonight that was not meant to be. I think it was a combination of the heat and the description of the day’s special, but I wound up ordering the Neah Bay salmon, which was pan seared and served on a bed of orecchiette and English peas, topped with a spinach sauce. I was very happy with my choice. The salmon was perfectly cooked; pink on the inside, crispy on the outside, and just enough salt to bring out the salmon’s full flavor. The spinach sauce and orecchiette made for a great pairing, and overall it was the best fish dish I’ve had in quite some time.

Lauren ordered the crab sandwich, which was simple but delicious. The local crab was mixed with a little lemon and served on rustic sourdough bread.

We didn’t have any room left for dessert tonight, but we’ll do so next time. We had a great time at Luc, and I can’t believe we waited this long to try it out. We’ll try and return at least once more before the baby is due.

Neah Bay salmon
Neah Bay salmon, orecchiette, spinach sauce

crab sandwich
Local crab sandwich, preserved lemon aioli

rose and gazpacho Lauren and her sandwich

Luc
2800 E. Madison
Seattle, WA 98112
206-328-6645

Revel

Rating:

Last night Dan and Leslie introduced us to Revel, which opened in Fremont last December. Revel is the latest endeavor of Rachel Wang and Seif Chirchi, the chefs who left Coupage a few years back to start Joule. The theme at Revel is Korean street food, but not your typical bulgogi fare. This is chic, upscale Korean, like our friend Karen.

The menu is organized into six sections: salad, pancake, dumpling, rice, noodle, and ice cream sandwich. Between the four of us (including Dan’s extra-healthy appetite) we were able to sample about half the menu, as well as the daily special.

Rachel cooking
Chef Rachel at work in the open kitchen

Menu

We started our meal with a few drinks. Leslie ordered a greyhound, and about 10 minutes later our waitress returned with her drink, apologetically telling us that the delay is because her bartender accidentally made a grapefruit martini (with citron infused vodka). When we commented that this mistake sounded tasty to us, the waitress brought it to us compliments of the house, one of many nice touches by the staff. Lauren partook of the house-made sodas, enjoying her spicy ginger beverage. My glass of pinot was just ok – I’ll stick with mixed drinks next time.

Leslie double-fistingLauren enjoying her drink
The ladies with their drinks

Our food arrived progressively. First came the salads, which were divine. The spinach salad was a simple mix of fresh greens, sunchoke, and raisins with a mildly sweet miso vinaigrette. I’d never tried corned lamb before, but it made for an excellent combination with mizuna greens and fish sauce.

Next came the dumplings and pancake. The earl grey dumplings were dreamy. The noodles were a perfect chewiness and the ricotta/raisin filling had a soft sweetness that was addictive. By contrast, the pancake was blasé. I’m sure we got an iron boost from the kale, but overall the dish, while attractive, was also fairly bland.

We also enjoyed the special of the day – a whole grilled chicken with spring onions and enoki mushroom ragout. The chicken was moist and had absorbed the mushroom flavor well.

Our last dish was a bowl of noodles, tinged green with coriander and served with large, perfectly grilled gulf shrimp. The whole dish tasted very fresh; soft noodles with crunchy shrimp and vegetables. I quite enjoyed the noodles, and it would have been a large enough dish to satisfy my hunger if I was dining solo.

I’ve never been to Korea, but I bet you won’t find albacore tuna/fennel kimchi/escarole rice bowls on the streets of Seoul. However, I don’t think the clientele are here for the authenticity. Revel’s inventive, tasty small plates are drawing quite a crowd, with the main room already filling up when we arrived at 5:30. Lauren and I will return soon for another round of the salads and the earl grey dumplings;  we’ll make sure to save room and try the ice cream sandwiches.

mizuna salad
Mizuna salad with corned lamb, spicy nuoc cham

Spinach salad
Spinach salad with sunchoke, miso vinaigrette

Ricotta dumplings
Earl grey ricotta, golden raisin, candied pecan dumplings

Kale pancake
Kale, walnut, arugula, pecorino-romano pancake

coriander noodles
Coriander noodles with white gulf shrimp and cilantro pistou

Chicken
Chicken with mushrooms and spring onions

Revel
403 N 36th St
Seattle, WA 98103
206-547-2040

Deli and Bread Connection

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In both of our guidebooks, Deli & Bread Connection is touted as having “the best sandwiches in Kauai.” So when we passed through Lihue as part of our helicopter-delay excursion, we had to stop by for lunch. We ordered two of their specials: a Lobsta’ Roll, and a Chicado (chicken salad with avocado). However, they were out of avocado, so no Chicado for us. Based on prominent signage, we made a game-time decision to choose a Vegi Burger with its “delicious patty.”

The Vegi Burger was good – the patty was nothing special, but the accoutrements were fresh and generous, and the bun was a nice freshly-baked sourdough. The Lobsta’ Roll was absolutely, ridiculously amazing. The lobster salad was very heavy on the lobster – local, mildly sweet, and in big lumps. It was complemented very well by the Swiss cheese, mushrooms, and red onions. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and I savored every bite.

This morning we stopped by Deli & Bread Connection on our way to the airport to pick up provisions for the long flight home (something I highly recommend). This time they had avocado, so we repeated our original order from Wednesday. The Chicado was good (reminded me of a sandwich from Specialty’s), but it paled in comparison to the Lobsta’ Roll. As a consequence of our flight shuffling, Lauren and I were placed in window seats on consecutive rows, with couples seated adjacent to us. As you would expect, neither couple wanted to swap seats with us. However, as I was taking my first bite of the Lobsta’ Roll, my neighbor offered to trade his seat for the sandwich. What would you do in this situation?

Counter service
Order up!

Lobsta' Roll
Lobsta’ Roll – lobster salad, grilled with mushrooms, red onions, and melted Swiss cheese

Vegi Burger
The Vegi Burger – with mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato-basil pesto, and “the works”

Kenny and his sandwichLauren and her sandwich

Deli & Bread Connection
3-2600 Kaumualii Highway # 1648 (next to Macy’s)
Lihue, HI 96766
808-245-7115

The Big Egg

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On our last trip to Portland, we asked food truck aficionados DeAnn and Andy for recommendations. They directed us to The Big Egg, but we were car-less and the Egg’s Mississippi Marketplace home in NE Portland is impossible to reach by public transit.

Fortunately we knew we’d be back in a month, this time with our Prius. Yesterday we met up with the food cart mavens themselves, fresh off their beeline drive from Seattle.

The Big Egg’s menu consists of a breakfast wrap (Andy’s favorite: he had two!), and an assortment of brioche egg sandwiches such as today’s special chosen by DeAnn and Anjali:

House-made Apple-Carrot Butter, Thick-cut Smoked Bacon, Vintage White Cheddar, Baby Arugula & an Over-Easy Farm Egg with Fresh Thyme on Grilled Brioche!

Lauren and I ordered a breakfast wrap and an Arbor Lodge. We had been warned the sandwiches can take awhile, so we were prepared for the 25 minute wait. When my name was finally called, we were ready to chow down.

The wrap was good, with the yogurt lime sauce bringing me back to Vios memories, but I’m not a huge home-fries fan, so the grilled potatoes detracted somewhat from the appeal for me.

The Arbor Lodge however was food truck slow food at its finest. The caramelized onions had a jam-like sweetness and the mushrooms were chewy and flavorful without a hint of rubbery-ness. The brioche bread was sinfully good. The taste I had of the daily special was equally delicious. I was so distracted by the lingering flavors in my mouth, that I forgot my umbrella at our lunch table!

When we returned today for a late brunch with Tommy, I couldn’t resist having another Arbor Lodge. It was just as delectable as yesterday. I would definitely recommend adding a stop at The Big Egg’s bright yellow truck to your next Portland itinerary. The nearby waffle and juice trucks are also worth a visit. And to top it all off, I recovered my umbrella from the friendly market caretakers!

Ladies in front of the cart
DeAnn sharing her sandwich excitement with the ladies

Arbor Lodge sandwich
The Arbor Lodge – egg, grilled organic Portobello mushrooms, caramelized balsamic onions, and arugula with roasted garlic and herb aioli on grilled Grand Central brioche

Breakfast wrap
Breakfast Wrap: a grilled flour tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, grilled potatoes, organic portabello mushrooms, fire-roasted poblano salsa, yogurt-lime sauce

DeAnn Kenny and Anu
Breakfast!

The Big Egg
Mississippi Marketplace
4233 N. Mississippi Ave
Portland, OR 97212
503-226-1946

Wed-Sun: 8:00AM-2:00PM (Breakfast)

Maya’s Taqueria

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We first stumbled upon Maya’s Taqueria years ago while searching for a mid-day snack after a visit to Powell’s books. It’s a simple counter-service restaurant serving tacos, burritos, and more with your choice of meats, which includes four types of chicken: Mole Chicken, Chicken Verde, Chicken Colorado, and Pollo Asado. We performed a taco survey and got hooked on the mole. Since then we have wound up back at Maya’s on just about every subsequent trip to Portland.

This morning we needed a snack to tide us over until our 11AM brunch plans. We stopped by the Snow White House Crepe Cart, which we missed on our last visit, but discovered they don’t open until lunchtime. Fortunately Maya’s was located just around the corner, and on our last visit we noted that they were open early for breakfast. Our plans quickly evolved from “a taco would be great” to “well, maybe I’ll have two tacos” to “why don’t we try that breakfast burrito?” Which we did, and it was delicious. Juicy mole chicken, black beans, eggs, rice, and salsa wrapped in a fresh tortilla – it’s a great way to start the day!

Mole chicken breakfast burrito
Mole chicken breakfast burrito

Verde and Colorado chicken tacos
Last month’s taco survey: Chicken Colorado and Chicken Verde

Mole chicken burrito
Mole chicken [dinner] burrito in a whole wheat tortilla

Posing in the storefront

Maya’s Taqueria
1000 SW Morrison Street
Portland, OR 97205
503-226-1946

Daily: 8:00AM-10:00PM (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Red Mill Burgers

Rating:

While we were out and about enjoying the spring sunshine this afternoon, Lauren got a craving for Red Mill Burgers. We hadn’t been in quite awhile, but our friend Fiona must have fanned our cravings when she was reminiscing about Red Mill yesterday.

Red Mill has two locations, though I favor the one in Phinney Ridge, where I feel transported to small-town America in the middle of Seattle. The place was still packed at 3PM, but the line wasn’t too bad, and we got a nice view of the grilling action.

Waiting on line
Lauren would sooner be found eating this shirt than an actual pile of bacon

Menu

I’ve sampled most of the menu over the years, and you can’t go wrong with the beef, veggie, or chicken burgers. Today we ordered a Verde Chicken Burger, made with in-house fire roasted, hand-peeled Anaheim peppers, and a Red Onion Garden Burger, piled high with grilled onions. Red Mill’s burgers are served on a fresh Kaiser bun, with generous toppings.

Usually I also save room for a milkshake and their amazing cornmeal-crusted onion rings, but as were already on our third meal of the day we kept it simple. We’ll be back soon for the onion rings though!

Verde Chicken Burger
Verde chicken burger

Red Onion Garden Burger
Red onion garden burger

Lauren digging in
That Verde Chicken Burger is a mouthful!

Greenlake view
View of Greenlake and the Cascades from Red Mill’s porch seating

Red Mill Burgers
312 North 67th St
Seattle, WA 98103
206-783-6362

Poppy

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I’ve been meaning to write about Poppy for a few years now. After taking shelter at home all day from the snowpocalypse we took a long walk down to Broadway and I committed to following up with a review tonight.

Poppy opened in Fall 2008, after Jerry Traunfeld left his 20 year post at the Herbfarm (and its $250/person dining tab) to open a more casual restaurant in Capitol Hill. It took us a few months to make our first visit, after listening to Gio rave about his perpetual (almost weekly) dinners there. Once we did though, I was hooked.

The food at Poppy centers around the concept of a thali. Contrary to the Indian curries + rice on aluminum tray (or banana leaf), Poppy’s thalis are a Pacific Northwest-inspired assortment. They usually include a soup, a few salads, a pickle, naan, and one or two larger “mains” (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options). Lauren and I have found it best to split a thali, which leaves us some room for an appetizer and/or a dessert (both worthwhile).

The appetizer list has a few mainstays, including one of our favorites, eggplant fries with honey. Lauren normally hates honey, but cannot refuse these fries. Sometimes we recognize items we’ve make from the Herbal Kitchen (which Jerry will sign for you if purchased at Poppy).

For the thali, Poppy is very flexible about letting you mix and match between entrees, sides, etc. in order to fully customize your plate. If available, the scallops and black cod are both amazing, and they do a great job with yams and mushrooms. Here are some of what you might get if you are lucky:

vegetarian thali
Full (10 item) vegetarian thali (clockwise from top):
nigella-poppy naan
goat cheese blintzes with chestnut and chanterelles
triple celery salad (celery root, celery stalk, celery seeds)
persimmon, radicchio, and citron salad
local black truffle, leek, and sunchoke risotto
cauliflower, sesame and fennel soup
wild mushroom-marjoram bread pudding
nigella-poppy naan
center-left – brussels sprouts with crisp shallot
center-right – gingered burdock pickle
(hidden behind naan) – fingerlings with lavender and mint

scallops
Alaskan scallops with pork belly and vanilla-thyme quince

Thali for chilly nights
A thali for chilly nights (Jan 2009, clockwise from top):
four-seed chickpea salad
carrot soup with start anise and cinnamon
black cod with beet-wasabi sauce and burdock
Yukon gold potatoes and cashews with clove and cardamom
yam and sesame fritter
Berkshire pork ribs with pear, parsnip, and sunchoke
spot shrimp, endive, and grapefruit salad
center-top – lemon fennel pickle
center – cauliflower gratin
(not pictured) – nigella naan

quail and spot shrimp thali
A thali for December sun (2008, clockwise from top):
five-seed kale
mushroom marjoram bread pudding
quail from the tandoor with pomegranate walnut sauce
shaved cauliflower salad with Buddha hand
  persimmon, fennel, and chervil salad
chestnut soup with cardamom, vanilla, and bay
spot shrimp and fingerlings in garlic almond sauce
center-left – satsuma mustard pickle
center-right – rosemary-ginger yams with spiced coconut, cranberry cigar

Tonight we had room for one last bite. Usually we opt for Poppy’s house-made ice cream, which is the best on the Hill (sorry Molly), but given the chill outside we opted for chocolate. The torte is petite in size, but quite rich and satisfying.

chocolate torte
Chocolate caramel torte with orange peel and cocoa nib crunch

Lauren enjoying dessert
Lauren enjoying dessert

It’s great to have a restaurant of this caliber on the Hill. I’ve taken a number of guests there for the unique presentation, rotating menu, Northwest flair, and fun setting. We still haven’t managed to get there for happy hour, but I’ve heard rave reviews on that as well.

Poppy
622 Broadway E (at Roy)
Seattle, WA 98102
206-324-1108

Tu-Th, Sun: 5:30PM-10:00PM (Dinner)
Fri-Sat: 5:30PM-11:00PM (Dinner)
Bar menu for an extra hour each day

Le Fournil

Rating:

Le Fournil is a little French bakery and sandwich shop located under the I-5 bridge (and just south of the U-bridge). We’ve made a number of trips to U-Village since moving into our new house, and each time we passed Le Fournil we would wonder why we didn’t time the trip appropriately for a lunch stop. Today we avoided that mistake, and boy was it delicious.

My go to at Le Fournil is their “lunch special”, which includes a sandwich, drink (coffee or juice), and a pastry for just more than the price of a sandwich.  The sandwiches are served on their house-baked baguettes, and are primarily classic French choices like camembert or ham and cheese. Today we had tuna (one of my favorites), made with some light herbs and spices.

The hardest decision at Le Fournil is which pastry to get (the only wrong answer here is to abstain). When we took our friend Shivani here, she found the mille-feuille orgasmic. The croissants are flaky and perfectly buttery, but today we were drawn to the fruit tart section of the case and chose the lemon tart. Perfect if you’re in the mood for the tartness of lemon, it was a sizable portion (though of course we finished it all).

As this special is available as early as 7AM, I’ve also been known to stop in on the way to work and enjoy freshly-squeezed orange juice and an almond croissant (with a sandwich for later). If you are craving a little taste of Paris, get yourself over to the Montlake cut and linger over a meal at Le Fournil, you won’t regret it!

Lauren and her lunch special
Enjoying the lunch special: latte, tuna sandwich, and lemon tart

Sweets on display
A large selection of goodies, from peach tarts to mille-feuilles

Le Fournil
3230 Eastlake Ave E (just south of the University Bridge)
Seattle, WA 98102
206-326-0287

Tue-Sat 7:00AM-6:00PM, Sunday 8:00AM-3:00PM

Nanjing Restaurant

Rating:

There aren’t many dining options near our office. On the days that we don’t bring our own lunch we have our choice of the cafeteria (located in the atmospheric parking garage), overpriced delivery, or two restaurants within walking distance.  Nanjing is one of those two restaurants, a Chinese place located inside of a motel about 2 blocks away.

Our first meal at Nanjing was quite memorable. We ordered ma po tofu, and “chicken with red and green chilies.” The waitress warned us that the chicken was “very spicy”, but we insisted that we like spicy food. She gave us a skeptical look and went ahead with the order. We relaxed on our balcony table, and enjoyed complimentary salted peanuts with our tea.

When the main course arrived, the ma po tofu was somewhat spicy, with a sauce that resembled a thick hot and sour soup. The chicken with chilies looked like a plate of stir fried green chilies. There were no red chilies to be found, and only a handful of green onions and chicken among the mass of spiciness. We were indeed warned, but nothing could quite prepare me for the experience of uninhibited chili-ness. We made a small dent in the chilies over lunch, and proceeded to make spicy omelets and stir-fries with the leftovers for the rest of the week.

Our second trip to Nanjing was a bit of a letdown. We had a forgettable chicken and peppers dish that was chewy and way too salty, and a hot and sour fish that was only ok (and also fairly salty). The staff were still nice, but the combination of high prices and mediocre food put a damper on the experience. Lauren and I decided that if we were to return, we would stick to our original lucky choices, and make sure to bring the camera for the chilies (which we unfortunately forgot during our first trip).

We didn’t actually manage such a return trip until yesterday’s team lunch. we re-ordered the dishes that had made an impression on us during our original visit, and our co-workers added an assortment of favorites from chicken with black bean sauce, to kung pao chicken. This time the chicken with chilies indeed had both red and green chilies (and a higher chicken-to-chili ratio), making it slightly less spicy but also more photogenic. A few of our co-workers enjoyed the ma po tofu, but only one was brave enough to try the chicken and chilies. His assessment: “I’ll let you know when my tongue stops burning”…and that was after a conscious decision to have a chicken-only bite!

Overall Nanjing has decent Chinese food with a few stand-outs, friendly wait-staff, and occasional misfires. While I wouldn’t recommend traveling across Kampala for Nanjing, it’s a relaxing place for a leisurely meal if you are in the neighborhood.

Ma po tofu
Ma po tofu

Chicken with vegetables
Stir-fired chicken with vegetables

Chicken with red and green chilies
Major spiciness: chicken with red and green chilies

Nanjing Restaurant
Plot 15, Impala Avenue
Kololo, Kampala, Uganda
+256 (0)414 340 928

White Sands Beach Hotel

Rating:

While we ate quite well in Stone Town, most of our meals on Zanzibar’s beaches were somewhat mediocre. The one major exception was a beachfront restaurant in Kendwa, at the White Sands Beach Hotel. The atmosphere at the restaurant is pretty basic, but the location is excellent, with nice views of the Indian Ocean from the outermost tables (where we were sitting).

On the waitress’s recommendation we ordered the prawn coconut curry, which was stupendous. The prawns were by far the largest we had in Zanzibar, and the tomato-based coconut curry was spicy and reminiscent of south India.

We also had the catch of the day, red snapper, which was seasoned with local spices and grilled. The fish was tender (not overcooked like much of the fish we had this week), and served with rice and tomato chutney.

If you’re on Kendwa beach (or at nearby Nungwi and sick of the same-old, same-old), definitely stop by the White Sands Beach Hotel and sample the coconut curry. Your tummy will thank you.

Prawn coconut curry
Amazing prawn coconut curry

Grilled snapper
Grilled red snapper

White Sands Beach Hotel
Kendwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania
+255 (0)777-411326