Category Archives: Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar {Seattle}

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One of the highlights of the weekend at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle was the Saturday Surprise Supper sponsored by UrbanSpoon. Bloggers were randomly assigned to groups. We only knew the neighborhood we were heading to. Our actual destinations weren’t revealed until we were on our way in the bus.

Being from out of town, I am unfamiliar with the Seattle restaurant scene. I am aware of the Tom Douglas empire because I’ve browsed, bought, and cooked from some of his cookbooks. Beyond that, I don’t have a clue. If I were a local, I’d know that dining at a John Howie restaurant would be a special treat!

My group arrived at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle. John Howie himself welcomed us to dinner. We were seated in the elegant private dining room to enjoy our 5-course Chef’s Tasting Menu.

The meal started with an amuse bouche: a skewer of pickled vegetables: fennel, caperberry, and locally foraged chanterelles. A week ago, I’d never eaten chanterelles before, but after a week in Seattle, I’ve had them three times. Sauteed, roasted, and now pickled. I’ll always think of them as a Pacific Northwest delight.

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I’m still learning about pairing wines with food. In a restaurant, I’d typically order a glass of wine I like and drink it throughout a meal regardless of what I’m eating. A tasting menu with wine pairings is a fun lesson to learn what really goes with what. At the Seastar dinner, the sommelier Paige introduced a different wine with each course. And so the tasting menu begins…

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The first course was Pacific Northwest Albacore ‘Crudo’. This is the same fish that we’re all familiar with in a can, but because it was ultra fresh, the tuna was raw, in the style of sashimi, but sliced extremely thin. The fish was garnished with avocado, roasted and dehydrated corn kernels, sprigs of micro cilantro, and a chili vinaigrette. My favorite flavor in this dish was the intense nutty taste of the dehydrated corn. Accompanying this starter course, Paige poured us a glass of bubbly, in this case, Roederer Estate Brut from the Anderson Valley in California.

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More fruits of the sea followed. We enjoyed a Seared Diver Scallop on a bed of golden beet carpaccio, topped with arugula and a black truffle vinaigrette. Beets are one of my favorite vegetables, and I loved the paper-thin sweet slices this dish was built on. To sip along with the scallop, we drank a glass of Joesph Drouhin Macon-Village from France. Unfortunately, my picture of this course was too blurry to do it justice, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

The middle course was a substantial piece of Alaskan Halibut wrapped in pancetta. The plate was coated with a tomato coulis topped with a bed of tiny Beluga lentils studded with roasted mushrooms. The roasted fish came next, with a garnish of micro basil and basil oil. This hearty course was accompanied by a glass of Stoller Pinot Noir from Dundee Hills, Oregon. The wine was light enough not to overpower the fish, but heavy enough to hold its own.

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After a scoop of a cleansing sorbet made with berries and port, we moved away from the sea. Who can resist a filet mignon poached in butter? The tender steak was accompanied by a cheesy croquette and more mushrooms cooked in a cognac demi glace. A Mark Ryan Merlot from the Columbia Valley of Washington, which was made especially for John Howie, was hearty enough to stand up to the rich meat and potatoes.

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Finally, for dessert, we enjoyed an apple turnover topped with a scoop of buttermilk ice cream, sprinkled with Beecher’s aged white cheddar, and drizzled with a maple caramel sauce. The apple pastry was more tart than sweet, bringing the meal to a comforting close. I was introduced to Sauternes for the first time. Again, though a dessert wine, it wasn’t overly sweet and matched the turnover’s apple flavors.

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If you live in Seattle, Seastar should go on your list of restaurants for celebrating a special occasion. The elegant atmosphere, sophisticated food, and impeccable service worked together to create an unforgettable evening.

* Disclosure: Urbanspoon hosted my dinner at Seastar. However, the opinions expressed in this post represent my sincere and honest thoughts about my meal and the venue.

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Weekend Indulgences

One strategy we use to get out of the house and into the city is a subscription to the Huntington Theatre Company. The tickets are for the Saturday matinee, which leaves the option for a lunchtime or early dinner adventure. Seven guaranteed Saturdays in Boston.

This week’s production was in the South End, at the relatively new Calderwood Pavillion. The show was The Luck of the Irish, written by Kirsten Greenidge and directed by Melia Bensussen. The subject of this play was a little-known slice of Boston history, “ghostbuying”. This was the practice in the mid-20th century where upwardly mobile minorities, in this instance an African-American family, used the cover another family, a white Christian family, to buy a home in an otherwise white neighborhood. Half a century later, the white family asks for their house back. The timeline moved artfully from the 1950’s to present day, weaving the current day story between the grown grandchildren of the original African-American family and the aged Irish couple with the story of the young grandparents and the young Irish couple. We enjoyed the production, and it provided lots of fuel for discussion afterwards.

Saturday was a beautiful day, so after the show, we stopped by The Salty Pig on the back side of Copley Square for a drink and snacks at an outside table. What’s not to love about a restaurant with a menu that has one section of salty pig parts and another section of stinky cheeses. We crafted our own platter with porchetta, salami, and chicken liver mousse along with some strong-flavored cheeses from Vermont. We rounded out the plate with some olives and pickled peppers. It was a fun place to hang out, and we’ll be back.

We were home on the early side and were still craving something more to eat. Have you ever tried an instant hot chocolate cake? You mix individual portions in mugs and zap them for a few minutes in the microwave. I had imagined the cakes to be runnier, like molten chocolate cake, but they were a little overcooked. The recipe I started with was for just one cake, and Howard and I had a lengthy discussion about whether the same timing applied to two cakes or whether the time needed to be adjusted. I need to work on the timing, but they were very promising. No advance planning needed, and near instant satisfaction. This is a keeper.

Instant Hot Chocolate Cake
Makes 1
Adapted from this recipe

¼ cup flour
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
½ beaten egg (2 tablespoons)
3 Tbsp cream (or milk)
3 Tbsp canola oil
Splash of vanilla extract
Handful of chocolate chips

In the biggest mug you have, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt with a fork. Add the egg and blend it in. Add cream, oil, and vanilla. Continue mixing until just combined. Now scatter the chocolate chips on top of the mixture. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, until puffed.

If you make two (what else would you do with the other half an egg?), try testing after 2 minutes. I cooked 2 cakes together for 4 minutes and it was too long. My guess is the perfect amount of time will be around 3 minutes. When I figure it out, I’ll update this post.