Bryan and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary last week by going to Seattle. We planned the trip months ahead of time, enlisting the help of Seattle natives and Seattlites in the Twittersphere to help guide our time in the Northwest. Turns out Fourth of July weekend is an opportune time to visit: the Seattle International Beerfest was in full force, wine tasting was a mere 25 minutes away, and the sun made a long-awaited appearance after hibernating for a rainy winter.
Celebrating in Seattle
If you can even believe it, Bryan and I pledged not to make any dinner reservations for the three nights we were in town. Now, this is a historical moment for a couple who plans meals out to the tee. But our individual experiences in a town we had yet to experience together inspired us to live spontaneously. Worse comes to worse, Seattle has a great seafood restaurant on nearly every corner. Or at least a good small bites bar. Surely we could manage.
Well, we did much more than manage, thanks to the recommendation of Eric, a 20-something employee at Tenor Wines in Woodinville. After a rousing hour of tasting with Eric and Rochelle in Tenor's tasting room, we were hot on the trail for dinner recommendations. Our requirements came out in full force, "We're foodies... we like good wine... recommend off the beaten path places... we've already been to Tom Douglas' places... what about gastropubs..." Okay, we weren't that demanding (and by "we," I mean "me"), but we scored when Eric recommended a place just a stone's throw from downtown Seattle called Spur Gastropub.
Photo Credit: SpurSeattle.com
Not only is it a hot neighborhood joint hiding inside a historic building, chefs and co-owners Brian McCracken and Dana Tough were recently nominated by the editors of Food & Wine Magazine as "People's Best New Chef 2011." They've also landed on Condé Nast Traveler's 'Hot List' as well as Food & Wine's "Where to Go Next" list. It's clear that McCracken and Tough are going places, but it remains unclear how we didn't hear about Spur while planning our trip...
McCracken & Tough
Suffice to say the tip was a hot one, but after being disappointed by a heavily-lauded yet over-rated Woodinville restaurant the previous evening, Bryan and I were skeptical at best. Thank goodness, because Spur's dishes blew us away. The menu is made up of small bites, which was perfect as we were happy to share. The sockeye salmon crostini -- just LOOK at the color of that salmon -- was so gorgeous we had a hard time diving into it. The jewel tones of the salmon were so vibrant, the flavor so fresh, and the cool, creaminess of the mascarpone provided the perfect contrast against the crunch of the crostini. It was one, maybe two perfect bites.
Pork belly sliders came on toasted butter brioche warm and springy to the touch. While pork belly can often be passé, this was supple, juicy and delightful. Despite the pervasive bacon and butter flavors, crisp cubes of chilled apple and celery with a tangy citrus curd cut the richness.
Pork Belly Sliders | Celery, Apple, SmokeHand-cut tagliatelle came next, generously topped with fresh Parmesan shavings, a barely-to-temp duck egg, and tender oyster mushrooms. A gentle dab into the center of the egg sent yolk oozing all over the pasta, creating an instant sauce. Earthy pine nuts completed the dish. When we had finished the last al dente pasta strand, it was impossible to get all the sauce go to waste. We ordered warm brioche to sop up every last drop.
Tagliatelle | Duck egg, oyster mushrooms, pine nutsIn what is proof of a fantastic meal, we got so absorbed in our second round of mini plates that I forgot to snap photos. The missing pieces included a hot Merguez sausage with chickpeas, harissa and tender herbs, as well as a corned duck breast with sunchokes, Brussels sprouts and slivers of juicy white peach. Since peaches are in season, their delicate scent wafted up from the plate. Heavenly. I can say without hesitation the corned duck is easily the best duck I've ever had. Scratch that; it's the best we've both ever had. Try as I might, I can't find photos of the dishes anywhere. The pitfalls of a weekly menu!
Our final dish was a hand-rolled, browned Parisian gnocchi topped with meaty morel mushrooms (no grit here), shucked peas, pea puree and Parmesan. Beautiful pea tendrils added an element of sophistication, not that the presentation was lacking. This gnocchi made up for all the lackluster, tough, doughy gnocchi of meals past. Light and pillowy, we ate them slow and deliberately, not wanting the meal to come to an end.
Parisian Gnocchi | Morels, English Peas, ParmesanWe ended on a high note and didn't order dessert, which I've since been told was a mistake. In my mind though, it just gives us a reason to go back.
113 Blanchard Street
Seattle, WA 98121