On our recent trip to Seattle, we ate like we were never coming back. I’m sure we will, but that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to recreate some of the more exciting foods we tried over the course of the weekend. The first thing I ate after touching down that foggy Saturday morning was one of the more memorable breakfast treats I’ve ever enjoyed: an enormous (we shared!) glazed biscuit studded with dates and bacon, and laced throughout with a hint of maple.
We followed the biscuit with individual cast iron dishes of potato-vegetable hash topped with poached eggs and house-made hot sauce, staples at The Wandering Goose. I thought I’d never eat again, but we were both ravenously hungry by 5pm. Brunch does weird things to the appetite.
Urged by the recommendations of friends, we headed to Revel in Fremont. Revel doesn’t take reservations, so go early! We were by no means the first to arrive for dinner and by 6pm there was a wait. The menu is mostly Korean fusion, and entirely tasty. We sat at the bar, watching the chefs slide a parade of small dishes across the counter to hungry diners. While all of the five dishes we ordered were memorable, the octopus and kale salad was unlike anything I’d ever tried, and is definitely something I hope to recreate.
We mitigated our gluttony by walking the two miles to our next destination. At Hot Cakes, we sidled up to the bar and enjoyed dairy- and gluten-free molten chocolate cakes with vanilla ice cream (his) and whipped coconut milk (hers). After bundling up in scarves and gloves and hats, we rolled ourselves out into the chilly night, caught an UberX, and were in bed at the too-cool-to-have-private-bathrooms Ace Hotel in Belltown by 9pm. This is how we roll.
Brunch the following morning at Macrina was a source of more breakfast inspiration, with a roasted cauliflower omelet topped with black garlic aioli and toast. I ogled their giant jam thumbprint biscuits, a fun play on the typically diminutive cookies. It’s worth mentioning that, fueled by very good coffee, we made a serious dent on a NY Times Sunday (Sunday!) crossword puzzle.
En route that night to dinner at Sitka and Spruce in Capitol Hill, we accepted the 49ers’ loss as the city practically shook with jubilant hoots and hollers in the final seconds of the game. We sat at the end of a long communal table, warmed by the heat from the wood-fired oven. We watched with rapt attention as the highly efficient two-person team shuffled little pots, Dutch ovens, and cocottes in and out of the oven.
Every dish that night – barring dessert – starred pork in one way or another. It’s certainly not so novel these days to find a restaurant commited to nose-to-tail dining, but Sitka and Spruce executed the porcine-heavy meal with restraint and a light hand: a smooth chestnut soup with pancetta puree, bitter radicchio and endive with crispy pig ears, bacon fat-basted seared scallops.
Between the biscuit and our meal at Sitka and Spruce, it was pork that really stuck with me after a weekend of very satisfying eating. In fact, when we had brunch with lovely Seatle friends on our last morning at the cute Tilikum Place Cafe, I found myself craving MORE pork!
The following weekend, I picked up a pound of applewood-smoked bacon with the intention to recreate the biscuits, but instead found myself slipping bacon and its flavorful fat into a variety of dishes, á la Sitka and Spruce’s Sunday Pig dinner.
I took the Canal House lentils, a healthy meal Bon Appétit Magazine suggests for breakfast, in a more decadent direction by sauteing the aromatics in bacon fat and crumbling crispy bacon atop the dish at the end. Braised greens went the way of that biscuit, slow-cooked with slices of bacon and brightened before serving with a couple glugs of maple balsamic (a delicious concoction I picked up at Queen Anne Olive Oil).
We’re averse to the fees associated with checking bags, so I could only squirrel away a small 2 oz. bottle of the maple balsamic in my carry-on, nestled in with my lotion and hair conditioner. I’ve already used half of the bottle. It has the easily poured viscosity of a good balsamic vinegar, not the thick syrupyness of maple syrup, so I suspect that the rich flavor is the result of some sort of infusion and the addition of high-quality maple extract.
For those without access to maple balsamic, a sad club I’ll soon be joining, I’ve come up with the following combination of balsamic, maple syrup, and maple extract that makes a pot of braised greens sing. The bacon helps.
braised greens with maple, balsamic, and bacon
Chop a few slices of applewood-smoked bacon and render them until crispy in a heavy, wide-bottomed pot (like a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Remove and transfer to a plate. Add a sliced onion, and stir to coat evenly in bacon fat.
Saute until onion is translucent and starting to brown. Add a couple cloves’ worth of sliced garlic, and salt and pepper, and sauté for an additional minute or two.
Add a whole heap of greens, stirring to help them wilt down. Top them with a splash of water and cover the pot. Cook, covered, until the greens are wilted and softened to your liking. Remove cover, simmer to evaporate any remaining liquid, and remove from the heat.
Before serving, stir in the reserved bacon and this deliciousness: two tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar, one to two tablespoons pure maple syrup (the amount depends on how sweet you want your greens and the type of syrup you use – I’m partial to Grade B and tend to use about one and a half tablespoons), and a very small splash of maple extract (in the neighborhood of 1/8 tsp, but really, does anyone have an 1/8 tsp measuring spoon?).
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve warm!