This was an extraordinary year for dining in the Pacific Northwest. We didn’t get far from home, but we did eat well. I am going to leave out the home cooked meals - at our home or at our friends, though they would rank high for fun, flavor and festivity.
Out of town:
We finall braved the wait and it was well worth it! Additionally, we ended up with the cookbook and Michael has been working his way through the recipes, learning to cook a new cuisine and bringing us much dining pleasure at home.
26 Brix & Saffron - Walla Walla
jimgermanbar & Whoopemup Cafe- Waitsburg
Los Hernandez - Yakima/Union Gap - fresh asparagus tamales!
The trip to Walla Walla was all about food and scenery. The meals we had were solid hits, with nothing that blew our socks off, unless you count the pastry at Colville Patisserie. Since we missed the open hours at jimgermanbar, it has crossed our minds to go back and spend an evening or two there, just from having met the owners.
Chefs who can make me dinner anytime:
I am a fool for fresh pasta and antipasto plates. These were well worth the discomfort of sitting way too close to our unwelcoming neighbors at the long table of strangers.
Does it count when you are treated well by the company you keep? Thanks to Lorna and Henry, our double date for a dessert affair turned into a delightful evening of appetizers and drinks, a few extra savory dishes, and all of the remarkable creations from the pastry chef, Neil Robertson. Never would have happened if that gift certificate wasn’t burning a hole in my pocket for two years! Thanks friends.
The Corson Building
Sometimes, a special evening happens at just the right time. Late July, this place was such a hot ticket. We had waited a couple of weeks for the reservation, not knowing that I would quit my job in the meantime. It ended up being a celebration, of sorts. Another big table of strangers, with platters passed, and many wines drunk and left behind. The company, while not as convivial as at Lark, was not too bad. The food was very good to excellent, with the dessert an afterthought, and totally unnecessary.
Another unexpected treat - the dowager of Northwest dining experiences. We were fortunate to be offered the opportunity to enjoy dinner here in December. This time, the table for 7 was generously decorated and set with place settings for the 9 plated courses. The evening went on for 5 hours, a bit of a strain due to some extenuating circumstances, but the food was lovely, the table conversation only slightly breaking the bounds of not talking about politics or religion, and the proverbial introductions of the staff (down to the food scrap recycling pot bellied pigs) was tolerable.
“The Whole Beast” dinner made up of 3 beasts and made by 3 chefs (plus) was a long evening of sometimes too interesting dishes, wonderful company, and great service. Platters were passed family style, wine was shared in abundance as was laughter and stories. It was a pleasure to meet Riz and company (or, in Michael’s case, to run into an old friend.)
Did we omakase twice or thrice this year? Hajime had us eating things we were convinced we did not like, and liking them all the more. But more, he also fed us small bowls and plates of beautifully presented fish and vegetables in dressings and sauces that were good enough to drink. More than one saucer was raised to the lips to get the last of the mystery pool.
Buddha Ruska - unlike any Thai place in town, a menu full of surprises with knock out flavors and quality.
Jack’s Tapas - scallion bread and lamb with sour cabbage. I know there are other things on the menu.
Joule - We went for the Sunday supper urban bbq, but hit it the day they decided to do fried chicken. It was still fun and the food was great.
La Medusa - very fortunate to have this one in the neighborhood and to have shared dinners here with friends. Love the Moorish influences on the Sicilian soul food. We closed out 2008 with a dinner of rich delights including cauliflower, octopus, orecchette with fresh shaved brussels sprouts, and entrees of squab, and trout. We resolve to stay in the neighborhood more often in 2009 - see you soon.
Lola - An incredibly hot night, seated almost in the kitchen with Julie and Richard. We shared a lot of food and conversation. The food presentation was beautiful and the flavors were spot on.
Lunchbox Laboratory - I don’t even love burgers, but these are worth eating the burger as well as the side and shake. Will it be tater tots or sweet potato fries, maybe mac-n-cheese? Decisions!
Opal - we were here early in the year and probably three chefs ago. It was a nice surprise with some very pleasing options. The menu continues to offer hope of refreshing choices, but I can’t promise you will have the same caliber of food we did.
Pike Fish Fry - best fried fish (smelt, ling cod, sturgeon) in town and fried lemon slices! Fries are not bad either. Stand up and eat, then move along...
Samurai Noodle - Ramen with thick slices of rich pork. Heavenly.
Springhill - This was our repeat business place of the year as far as fancy went. Burger and fries to sophisticated small plates and well executed main courses, everything exceeded our expectations. It felt like we were cheating on Tilth and Zoe to go here.
Spur Gastropub - Is it a bar? Is it a molecular gastronomy restaurant? It’s two, two places in one. A bit rustic, a bit citified, the young chef-owners well fill the shoes of the space that was Mistral (at least I think they do, never having stepped foot in the place, unfortunately.)
Steelhead Diner - Kevin always makes us feel so welcome (and he is almost always there - be it brunch, lunch or dinner.) And the food is great!
Tulio’s - Herb and Mary breezed through town and invited us to join them for dinner. What’s not to love about that - and the food is excellent.
Veil - We were here in the early days and had to admit to liking it despite ourselves. Sad to say, this was the last time we will be able to experience the place. With the good company of Dan, John, and Joni, the unseasonably warm May evening was filled with very good food and company. Veil has since closed.
Verve - another neighborhood gem, we can only hope the chef stays forever.
Volunteer Park Cafe - you almost hate to tell another person that this place even exists. The simple food and rustic space are like comfortable old friends that care about you - and that is one feeling we know far too well.
Spice Route - we started to crave the flavors of Indian after our trip to Vij’s. Nothing in the the area will rival the skills in the Vancouver kitchen, but Spice Route has provided us with a destination for Southern Indian cuisine. A vada craving is excuse enough.
Szechuan Chef - the best dan dan noodles (hand shaved, please) that we found this year. Nice that this place is reasonably close to my Dad’s! Maybe next year we will try a hot pot...I hear they are great and we always see lots of them.
Top Gun - it took awhile to find, and then it was just behind the fence from the movie theaters at Factoria! They are open late - not crowded after hours, and the food is very good. The full menu is more interesting than the take out one, so we try to eat there most of the time. For some reason, we have better luck ordering a well balanced meal here - if you look at it from a sweet, hot, spicy, and sour viewpoint. We do pretty well from a carb, protein, and vegetable standpoint as well.