Cherry Street

tl;dr: get the tomato, basil, egg, and cheese on an Asiago bagel. I’ve also heard from reputable sources that the bacon, egg, and cheese on a pita is divine but have not tried it myself. I can’t get away from that tomato basil.

For a few months about a year ago, I worked tons of overtime. My coworker and I started early, we stayed late, and we held it together while new people were trained for the positions we were covering. We worked long, hard days, but every once in a while, we’d stop, turn to each other and say the magic word: bagel.

Our only solace during those months was Cherry Street and their bagel sandwiches. Most coffeehouses serve food as an afterthought, something to merely accompany their drinks. Cherry Street makes an effort to serve actual, delicious food. Food worth paying for. In the mornings, they have an employee whose only job is to make people breakfast. This isn’t just some bagel sawed in half with a cold cup of cream cheese and a plastic knife. This bagel is a masterclass in coffee shop edibles.img_3058

The bagels are proudly sourced from Seattle Bagel Bakery, who make fantastic bagels in a ridiculous amount of flavors. I’m pretty sure the Cherry Street near my work has eight or nine types, but the only one you need to worry about is the Asiago. Pleasantly cheesy but not overly so, with enough crust to feel substantial, unlike those stupid bread circles the grocery store bread aisle tries to call bagels. The crust isn’t so tough that it’s hard to bite through, just enough to crackle. The inner bits of the bagel are soft, dense, and good at soaking up whatever filling you’ve chosen.

When I first started visiting Cherry Street, I always got the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, which I thought was the gold standard. That is, until I tried the tomato, basil, egg, and cheese. With the bacon, the Asiago feels unnecessary and over the top. Getting a plain bagel when an Asiago bagel is available feels silly, so on my coworker’s advice, I eventually tried the tomato basil.

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At first, the idea of tomato and basil with eggs seemed odd to me, like a caprese gone wrong. After one bite, I realized how wrong I was. The tomato and basil justify the Asiago in a way breakfast meat can’t. They act the same way tomato and lettuce do on a burger, adding a needed counter to the hot, savory saltiness of the rest of the sandwich. They round out the flavors, adding a sweet freshness to the egg. Impressively, Cherry Street has mastered the microwave scrambled egg. I’ve never had an overcooked egg here, and the cheese is always melty.

I always love when a restaurant puts effort into what they’re doing. Walking in and knowing that a place is going to take care of you, especially when you’re working crazy overtime, is comforting. Making a consistently delicious breakfast first thing in the morning for downtown cogs isn’t an honorable job, but when you do it that well, it should be.

Good company

Food is always made greater by good company. There isn’t a single dish that benefits from being eaten alone. Since starting this blog, regular meals have become occasions, and I’ve experienced the great fortune of having friends get excited about this little thing I’m doing here. When you share what you’re excited about, people become excited to experience that thing with you. People want in on whatever intoxicating bit of life you’ve found. When that bit of life is food, you get the chance to experience some great meals with some excellent people.

A friend I’d lost touch with reached out with a couple restaurant recommendations after reading my posts, and we decided to use one of her ideas as an reason to get together. At Some Random Bar in Belltown, glasses of limoncello cider and plates of nachos (both crab and brisket) were enjoyed on one of those perfect Seattle summer nights. The nachos were expertly crafted, piled high after being baked in a single layer for maximum chip coverage. The tortilla chips were either made in house or sourced from somewhere that does them well. Thick, but not too crunchy, able to hold a mound of crab and cheese without incident. The crab was the star of these nachos, but the supporting players all did their part to help it shine even brighter. A drizzle of cilantro pesto, a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper, and a giant pile of guacamole would all have been great without the crab, but with it, the nachos became greater than the sum of their parts.

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After an 85 degree day, the evening had cooled just enough, leaving a pleasantly warm breeze even after dark. The deck outside Some Random Bar sits on the street, and cars occasionally whip by fast enough to halt conversation for a second. We lingered over our meal, covering everything we’d missed over the last year and a half of losing touch.  We sat back with our glasses of (showstopping, not too sweet, slightly tart) limoncello cider. We made jokes with the next table while they had a bit of trouble taming their adorably mischievous puppy. We made a promise to keep in touch this time, to actually schedule that next meal, to use this blog to give us reasons to keep catching up. To cash in on this great city and enjoy the ridiculous meals it has to offer way more often.At Sisters and Brothers in Georgetown, my sister and I recovered from a (not really) near death experience at good old Wild Waves. Sitting in the sun at a picnic table, we chased away the roller coaster anxiety with a Rainier buzz, followed by Nashville hot chicken and waffles. A couple cold cans settled my nerves, and the meal revived them.

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Normally, I require my chicken to have skin, but Sisters and Brothers doesn’t fry real chicken until dinner, so strips it was. A damn good rendition, especially considering my disdain for skinless fried chicken. It was everything a strip should be: crispy, juicy, and easy to eat. The decision to only serve strips at brunch made more sense once I realize how convenient the execution was. Each bite had a perfect combo of crust, meat, waffle, butter, and syrup. The ease of eating this dish was only beaten by the easy flow of conversation.
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When you’ve been not only siblings, but also best friends for 26 years, sentences are rarely finished. The meaning behind each phrase is completely understood before all of the words can exit your mouth, and the next topic is already broached. The conversations I have with my sister are wildly efficient, and frankly, slightly annoying to anyone listening, but to me they feel easy and refreshing. To enjoy a meal alongside one of these conversations is one of my favorite things in life.A couple weeks later, I met a friend at Sisters and Brothers to buy some boots from her and shoot the shit. Like a pro, she offered to order something different than me and to split whatever we ordered so I could learn more about the menu. She ordered the braised pork sandwich with a side of fried green tomatoes, and finally I got skin-on fried chicken with a side of mac and cheese. The Genesee cream ale we ordered showed up in hilariously big 24 ounce cans and totally hit the spot. Armed with a buzz, we dissected the food in a methodical manner, taking bites and discussing what was in front of us.

The braised pork was the underdog winner, with a surprising amount of mustard seeds strewn throughout, giving each bite a crunchy pop. The meat was tender and well-seasoned, pairing well with the zucchini sauerkraut on the sandwich. Fried green tomatoes were addictive. Sour, crunchy, and the only thing we thought about ordering more of. The chicken and mac and cheese were exactly what they should be, the former having an intensely crunchy crust, the latter having a fantastically creamy sauce. The meal was well done, a good way to spend a Tuesday night, but the conversation was what made that trip to Georgetown worth it.

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My friend took it upon herself to meet me at my level. She was excited about the experience of having a meal for the sake of the blog, which fed my already heightened excitement about food. Our conversation twisted and turned around food, starting with what we ordered that evening and quickly turning into a recap of our respective food histories. I learned about what it was like to grow up in the South and what food meant to her family specifically. I learned about manners and traditions in the South, and about Beach Road fried chicken. This meal gave us the opportunity to share where we came from and why we are who we are, which is one of my favorite things about sharing a meal with a friend.

I talk about the taste and experience of actually eating food more than anything else, and for good reason. Eating food is one of the great experiences we are afforded in this life. But man, there is nothing better than sitting down to a meal and having a great time with the person across from you. The greatest thing about food is that it brings us together. It gives us a reason to meet, a reason to sit down for an hour or two and just enjoy life. It punctuates our day with tiny vacations, glimpses into the good things that make the slog worthwhile. I get excited about food for the act of eating it, but these meals have reminded me about getting excited for the experience surrounding it.

Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt

tl;dr: they only sell yogurt, so you really can’t go wrong. I highly recommend the lemon curd, muesli, or rhubarb. If you’re saving your yogurt for later, flavors that have crumble (lemon cheesecake, marionberry pie) get less texturally enticing overnight, but are still great.

Greek yogurt was a fad I never got excited about. Too thick, oddly grainy yogurt, simply eaten for the protein content? The full-fat versions were slightly better, but a 400 calorie snack ain’t doin’ me any favors. Actually, I never was a fan of yogurt in general. If I’m gonna eat a cup of sugar goo, it’s gonna be pudding or a milkshake, not some cornstarch/stabilizer dairy mess.

Then, Ellenos came along. Ellenos makes you realize that every single stupid cup, Tillamook, Yoplait, Greek Gods, Fage, they’re all doing it wrong. Calling Ellenos yogurt feels like a disservice because your only experiences with yogurt thus far have been sad diet food or boring breakfast. But it is not Ellenos fault that you’ve only eaten shit yogurt. It’s up to you to remedy your definition. It is up to you to experience actual, delicious yogurt.

When you step up to Ellenos, you might be overwhelmed. You might look at the case and think, damn, there is no way I’m going to choose a flavor without sampling every single one. You’re wrong. Choose any flavor. They’re all good. Even the natural unsweetened is fantastic if you’re into that whole sugar avoidance thing like me. The only recommendation I have is to eat any flavor with crumbles in it immediately. After a few hours, the crumble distracts from the texture of the yogurt, rather than complimenting it.

The yogurt is silky in a way that feels engineered. Like, a real food product probably shouldn’t be this creamy. A small spoonful coats your entire mouth in a way that is deeply satisfying. The flavors are intense swirls of rich color, and they all stand up to the yogurt’s richness without detracting from it. This yogurt stops you in your tracks and makes you wonder what the hell you were eating up until this point.

Does the word yogurt look weird to anyone else now?

http://ellenos.com/

 

 

Buca di Beppo

tl;dr: the only thing I’m writing about and advocating for is the cheesecake. Everything else is your average, run of the mill Italian. A notch above Olive Garden. But that cheesecake, man. Order it with raspberry sauce and hazelnuts on the side and add them later if you feel it’s necessary (you won’t).

Steven and I aren’t really fussy people when it comes to occasions. It’s my birthday? Have some friends over for dinner. His birthday? Pretty much the same. Presents? Not really our jam. But on our last anniversary, I wanted dessert. Specifically, I became obsessed with the idea of Buca di Beppo cheesecake. And there’s not much else I can do to explain to you how good this cheesecake is without just telling you the story.

All I wanted for our anniversary was to split a dessert with my dude. I didn’t really care what it was, but Steven wasn’t having the same obsessive thoughts about our sugar adventure, so I was on my own in deciding. We currently live in Mountlake Terrace, otherwise known as no-restaurant’s-land, but getting down to Seattle really didn’t jive with the comfy pants I was wearing. I was racking my brain, trying to figure out the best way to have the lazy anniversary we both wanted, but still chowing down on the best dessert possible.

Hot Cakes in Ballard (which deserves its own post, lemme tell you what) sounded fantastic, but was just a smiiiidge too much of a production. Ice cream at the grocery store was just a little too everyday normal. Pie isn’t really Steven’s thing, so A La Mode is out the window. And then, BING! Buca di Beppo cheesecake. I remembered from my childhood splitting a piece four ways with the rest of my family and going absolutely bonkers about it. We talked about that cheesecake for years. I remember it being impossibly creamy, simultaneously light and rich, and that it was paired with an intense, not-too-sweet raspberry sauce.

It was the perfect solution to our anniversary dessert hunt. Steven had never tried it (along with most people, I would assume), there’s a location in Lynnwood, and I remembered it to be some of the best cheesecake I’ve ever experienced. I called the restaurant to order a slice to go, only to hear, “Sorry, we’re actually out of cheesecake right now.” To which I exclaimed a little too heartily “NOOOOO REALLY?!” The host shared in my dismay, and I was heartbroken. I hung up and flopped over on the couch. Woe was me.

At this point, an anniversary with any other dessert seemed lacking. My sights were set, and there was no other way around it. Steven mentioned grocery store cheesecake in that way you do when you know your idea is going to be shot down. There was no other cheesecake for me at this point. There was only one way. We were going downtown.

To those who may not know me and my husband as well, the fact that I was willing to sacrifice an hour of laziness to track down this piece of cheesecake doesn’t seem all that impressive (well, except for the fact that I’m weird enough to drive downtown just for cheesecake). But to those who understand our shared love of couches and comfy pants, this is quite an honor. Steven and I don’t just set aside laziness for nothing. It took some cajoling on my part to actually convince Steven that this was worth doing. I was taking this man, that I apparently love, away from the one thing he wanted to do for cheesecake I remembered from ten years ago. This was a true test of my recommendation skills.

You obviously know the end to this story. The tl;dr and the fact that I’m posting about it ruin the ending, but obviously that slice confirmed my suspicions of cheesecake greatness. It was exactly how I remembered. A contradiction of adjectives, this cheesecake is an example of a dessert menu done well. According to the host at the downtown Seattle location, all of their desserts are exceptional. It’s really too bad that this is the only one I’ll ever be capable of ordering.

http://www.bucadibeppo.com/restaurants/wa/seattle/menu/dinner

The Metropolitan Grill

tl;dr: You can’t go wrong ordering anything on the lunch menu at The Met. Order a side of fries if your dish doesn’t come with them, or steal some from your lunch date.

Some restaurants seem obvious in what they’re trying to achieve. The Metropolitan Grill is very clearly a high-end steakhouse. Important people dine here, and the classics are done well. No one needs to be told this, because it’s made obvious by the heated valet stand, the case of raw steaks in the entryway, the high-backed booths and the wood paneling everywhere you turn. When you walk in, you know you’re about to get treated to old-timey service by a guy in a white jacket. What most people don’t know is that The Met serves lunch, and that’s where the value is.

The Met’s lunch menu is a study in opulence. For less than $20, you can experience all the perks of dinner service while digging into a sandwich that seems hilariously out of place. The lunch options offered by The Met are all of the heavy, rich variety, and they’re all wonderfully sloppy.

Whenever I go to The Met for lunch, the menu taunts me. I have a favorite that I always order, and I always regret not choosing from the spectacular specials menu. That is, until my sandwich comes. The New York steak sandwich is an entire New York steak grilled and absolutely smothered with mushrooms, onions, and a pan sauce that can only be described as luscious. The whole thing is served open-faced on a giant roll, covered in provolone. Knife and fork is the only possible way to tackle this sandwich.

And the fries. It sounds silly to wax and wane over a pile of potatoes when a steak is sitting right next to them, but The Met’s fries are hands down the best in the city. They are seasoned better than any fry I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. They’re crispy and thin, but also have that wonderful squishy potato middle that so many fries miss. They are so on point that it wouldn’t surprise me if they had one person manning the fry station, testing a fry from each batch before sending them out.

Though the New York steak sandwich is most definitely my recommendation, the specials menu is always astounding. While doing research for this post, I peeked at the most recent lunch special menu (go look, it’s ridiculous) and it was all I could do to not schedule a lunch with any friend willing to plunk down the cash. Meatloaf, chicken fried steak, beef stroganoff, a Philly cheesesteak, and a burger dip don’t really sound worthy of a freak out, but when will you ever get to try any of these dishes made with the best beef money can buy? That is the idea behind The Met’s lunch. They aren’t blowing your mind with new, exciting flavor combinations. They won’t be putting anything on your plate that your mom couldn’t make for dinner. What they will do is take those classics and make them better than you ever could, which is exactly what I love to pay for. If you can render me speechless with a pile of fries, that’s talent.

http://www.themetropolitangrill.com/