Sunday, June 9, 2013

Seattle Restaurants: Harvest Vine, Altura, Blueacre Seafood, Tilth, Salty's, Walrus and Carpenter, Salumi, Skillet Diner, Uli's Bierstube

Altera was by far, my best food experience in Seattle, followed by Harvest Vine and Tilth.

Uli's Bierstube in Pike's Place
From the left, the lamb, thuringer and South African boerwurst, accompanied by grilled onions, sour cole slaw and sauerkraut. There were about 15 possible sausages to consider. I selected the lamb and basil, the caraway flavoured thuringer and the wine flavoured boerwurst. The sausage flavours were very good and the texture of each was slightly coarse and for me quite perfect. The only unfortunate aspect of this sausage service was that they were heated in a microwave. My faves were the thuringer and boerwurst. Three different mustards are served, spicy sweet, grainy and dijon. If you love sausages, you will enjoy a lunch here.

Altura has been the Open Table diner's choice winner in both 2100 and 2012. The press often refers to chef Nathan Lockwood's pedigree, but frankly, based on my experiences at some of the better restaurants around the world, this chef is a self starter in many ways. His menu is Italian influenced, but each dish is really a refined, highly composed presentation of what is seasonal, much of which is also "local". Despite the number of ingredients in each dish, the composition of ingredients was kept quite simple. The flavours of every ingredient came through in layers of wonder and were remarkably complimentary. I came expecting a "good" meal. I departed, having experienced one of the best meals that I have enjoyed in the United States.

 Fennel panna cotta topped with olive oil, salmon roe, basil puree with olive oil. A simple, light and refined beginning with palate pleasing, harmonious flavours.

Asparagus and olive oil soup with marinated raw tuna. The remarkable subtlety of the tuna was perfectly matched with the flavours of the soup.

Caribinieri prawn with stinging nettle frittata. The head was deep fried and eaten in it's entirety. Both the crunchy head an body were perfectly cooked.

Asparagus casconcelli, asparagus with crispy braised pork belly, pasta and robiola la tur, a creamy, slightly tart cheese made of cow, sheep and goat's milk.

Perfectly cooked tagliatelle with basil fed snails, cuore di ouvo (cured turkey egg), fava beans and green garlic butter. Here again, a perfectly executed dish with an impeccable composition of ingredients.

Melt in your mouth, yukon gold potato gnocchi with a mildly spicy, rich Abruzzese style lamb ragu, topped with paper thin slices of parmesan cheese. 

OK, mea culpa!! The aroma and presentation of this dish caused me to dig in without thinking, and suddenly realize and take this unpleasing photo. But, you can see the presentation form on the left side of the dish. Again, ingredient perfection and execution. Very tender Magnolia Farms "true wagyu" beef cap (my favourite cut), with fresh morel mushrooms (they were quite incredible with this dish), puree of parsley root and farro.

Pecorino pepato cheese with spring greens salad, fava beans, porcini and pickled ramps.

This refreshing dessert was a major hit for all. Wood sorrel sorbet accompanied by olive oil cake, olive oil "powder" in a crispy tuile cookie and strawberry confit.

We were doing so well, we had to order an extra, house made mascarpone gelato with traditional balsamic vinegar "extra vecchio", accompanied by strawberries.

Skillet Diner

Skillet diner has become rather well known in North America, particularly for it's "bacon jam", which is obtainable either on line or, carried by some well known food purveyors. It can be a "secret" ingredient for dishes either cooked at home or at the resto.

House made biscuits with sage gravy. Tasty, but does nothing for me.

Deconstructed corned beef hash with fingerling potatoes,herbs, roasted onions, carrots, fennel all topped with 2 poached eggs. This dish was delicious, redolent with sage flavours.

Very good fries.

Fried chicken "sammy" witha fennel seed crust, pickled and charred jalapeno aioli, kale and potato bread. This was a really good sandwich; the chicken crust was perfectly crispy and the chicken itself very moist. The sandwich was sided with a great corn, pork and cabbage soup flavoured with sage.

The burger with "bacon jam" (this is Skillet Diner's "secret" ingredient), arugula, and pickle (no cheese as requested). The burger arrived perfectly cooked medium rare and the ground beef texture was perfect. The bacon jam made this burger remarkably good.

Walrus and Carpenter

Very good potato salad.

Tuna terrine with toast, mustard and assorted pickles.

Whipped cod topped with an egg yolk, sided with toast. The cod was rather bland.

Crispy fried oysters with house made tartar sauce.

Scallop crudo. The scallops were not fresh enough and lacked sweetness.

Spot prawn crudo was good.

Rhubarb gallette, orange flower water and whipped chevre.

Staple and Fancy
This is a good bar and resto. The bartender was remarkable hospitable, courteous and friendly. A great selection of aperitifs, "alcools" and mixed drinks were available.

Chef at the apple wood fired grill.

Perfectly cooked tagliarini pasta with nettle pesto sauce, pine nuts and parmesan.

Excellent rare (as requested) Washington beef strip loin with anchovy dressing, treviso and shaved parmesan cheese.


Apple wood smoked and roasted steelhead trout sided with mushroom risotto, apple jicama slaw (not shown). The trout was wonderful, just wish the piece was 3 times this size.

Clam chowder that was far too creamy.

Very fresh local oysters.

Fried calamari with house made chipotle and pickled pepper aioli was very good, crispy, not greasy.

An ok shrimp cocktail.

Steamed live dungeness crab was sweet and very fresh, served with butter.

Skip desserts.


Salumi is the Batali family restaurant, the place where the renown chef Mario Batali grew up. Lines form long before this take out resto with only 3 tables opens. I joined the line below 40 minutes before the opening!! While wainting in line, after the opening (the line does not move quickly), a server passed around slices of their house made fabulous finochiana salumi which was flavoured with curry, peppercorns and fennel.

Ordering sandwiches and awaiting pickup.

Sandwiches are on good bread, this one, the moffo, serve on Giuseppe bread spread with a mixture of vegetable puree, olive tapenade and pimento puree topped with provolone cheese, cotto and hot sopressata salumi.

Warm porchetta (butterflied pork stuffed with meatballs and spices) wth grilled onions and peppers.

Warm cotechino sausage with pork skin and flavoured with vanilla, on baguette.

Was it worth the 1 hour wait??? Everything was good, but, I would have to say, NO.


The chef/owner is Maria Hines and the executive chef is Jason Brzozowy. The restaurant is charming and located in a very small airy home, with a lovely outdoor eating area. Seasonal regional ingredients are simply and lovingly assembled and executed with very pleasing and harmonious flavours.

I started with a cocktail of John Jacob rye, Luxardo, sherry and rhubarb bitters with a twist of lemon zest, a wonderfully composed drink that stimulated the appetite.

Spring pot au feu with wild leeks, green garlic, artichoke, sweet pea shoots and pea broth, accented with a touch of lemon. Delightful in the simplicity of wonderful fresh flavours.

Oxbow farm rapini and red cabbage with chili flakes and saba (which added a lemony flavour). A very good dish.

Mini duck burgers with caramelized onions, spicy mustard aioli and arugula, all accompanied by very tasty, ungreasy, house made chips. The burgers were on brioche buns, good choice, but the burgers lacked the flavour of the duck.

Smoked yogurt flan with pickled green garlic, mustard greens and lemon charcoal. The smoky aspect made this dish truly enjoyable.

Roasted Penn Cove manilla clams with chorizo, wild leeks, cauliflower and all topped with chopped cilantro. The chorizo added a very tasty savoury aspect to the briny clams.

A good Theo chocolate ganache cake with sea salt.

The only failing of this restaurant was the inexcusably bland bread and tasteless butter. A resto of this caliber should not offer bread and butter at all (would be better not to) unless it is very good.

Local 360, Brunch

Corned beef hash with chopped russet potatoes and pieces of corned beef, accompanied by baguette and topped with poached eggs. Although ok, this is not corned beef hash as I prefer it.

Biscuits and sausage gravy. The spicy gravy had a good sausage flavour but was much too salty.

Fried chicken, chicken breast that was rolled around bacon mousse, lightly flour battered and deep fried, all on cheesy grits and collard greens and topped by a fried egg. Interesting idea but the fried chicken did not appeal to me at all, was dry and over cooked.

Blueacre Cafe

Fresh spot prawns grilled and sided with toast.

Good hash browns with a crispy crust but a bit too much butter.

Very good wild Alaskan salmon....sorry, I could not wait.

Harvest Vine

Roasted pepper puree sided with roasted tomato puree.

A fabulous selection of sliced ham and salumi from the pata negra pig (from Spain, a wonderfully tasty pig left to roam in the the fields where the ground is covered with acorns, on which they feed).

Tortilla, a warm potato and onion omelette topped with curly endive and accompanied by aioli. The tortilla was ok but could have been better (I have tasted so much better in Spain, in even the simplest bar).

The magical combination of flame grilled scallions and romesco sauce               (composed of ground almonds, garlic, roasted red peppers, vinegar, olive oil, stale bread and tomatoes).

Squid braised in squid ink sauce with bomba rice.

A special cut from the pata negra pig (I have never experienced fresh meat from the pata negra pig, only cured meats), cooked to rare, accompanied by panadera potatoes and cider sauce. This may have been one of the greatest meat experiences that I have ever enjoyed.

Grilled lamb in torrefacto (coffee glazed with sugar and roasted) with sauteed artichokes and piperade. Another amazing meat dish.

Coconut flavoured flan was creamy perfection, perhaps one of the best flans i have experienced.

Chocolate layer cake with almond pastry cream and a red wine chocolate sauce, a chocolate lover's dream dessert.

The only miss of the night, an olive oil and wine cake with roasted muscat grapes and topped with whipped cream.

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