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Lark, Seattle

Located in the Capitol Hill area, Lark is primarily a walk-in restaurant but they do take a FEW nightly reservations which you must make the day you would like to dine.  When our flight from Denver to Seattle (or SEA-TAC as the locals call it) was delayed, we had just enough time at the Denver airport to grab our first vacation beer and make a 7:30 reservation at Lark.

The Capitol Hill area in Seattle seems to be the hip place to live and eat.  There are about 1 million coffee houses (What else do you expect in Seattle? It’s the birthplace of Starbucks!) as well as restaurants, bars and clubs.  Apparently Capitol Hill was the neighborhood most associated with the Grunge movement in the 1990s, and it’s currently the “it” place for the counterculture scene (which appeared to be mainly hipsters) and the gay and lesbian population.  It’s somewhat surprising that it’s such a popular place for the counterculture scene because it’s also the most expensive place to live in Seattle.

After a drink at a Capitol Hill speakeasy, Needle & Thread (which is located above Tavern Law on 12th street) we arrived at Lark for our 7:30 reservation.  

The restaurant is warm and cozy with only about 30 seats, and the woman who greeted us at the door was incredibly friendly.  Our table was not yet ready, but there were two seats at the bar so we decided  eat there.  (That’s two seats total.  It was the cutest little two seat bar)

I knew this place was going to be good when I noticed that the first page of the menu consisted entirely of cheeses. Oh Jesus, all the Cheesses!  We decided to reserve the cheeses for dessert and move straight into the “meat and potatoes” of the menu (so to speak).  The menu consists of small plates, and our waiter recommended we choose 2-3 dishes per person and share them.  The hostess felt bad about our seating (which we were delighted with) so she brought us a small plate from the charcuterie section of the menu.  It was La Quercia prosciutto with truffled green peach and Parmigiano Reggiano.  I don’t usually like prosciutto, but this dish was so delicious, we didn’t even remember to take a picture of it until we’d polished off the last bite!  The sweetness of the peach mixed with the saltiness of the pig really worked well, and the parmesean gave the dish a little bit of a firmer texture which I appreciated.

Next we shared the Carpaccio of Yellowtail with lemon oil, fennel and green olives.  When I was in Paris a few years ago, I ate a fish crudo at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon that was truly the most wonderful fish I’ve ever eaten.  After extremely careful consideration, I’ve decided that it was not only the high quality, VERY thinly sliced fish, but the perfect marriage of olive oil and lemon juice mixed with salt that made this raw fish dish so amazing.   I had high hopes for Lark’s fish Carpaccio, but it didn’t quite make the Joel Robuchon mark.  I did, however, think they used high quality fish with a good balance of acid and salt.  I wish they had sliced the fish thinner, and perhaps used a bit more oil, but the green olives were a nice touch.

Our next course was the all star of the night.  It was Penn cove mussels with chorizo, piquillo pepper broth and a garlic crouton.  It was so good, I wanted to drink the broth from the pot when the mussels were gone, and we fought over who got the last delicious, butter soaked garlic crouton! 

I am NOT a huge chorizo fan, and it often overpowers a dish, but it was perfectly used in the mussels.  It added a smoky spice, but didn’t make the shellfish taste like sausage (which I appreciated).   The broth was comforting with a kick of spice, just as I like it!

 The fourth course had two of my favorite foods in it: mushrooms and eggs!  The eggs were from a duck, which was a new variety for me, and the mushrooms were baked with onion, bacon and red wine, which really accentuated their earthiness.  My husband ADORED this dish.  He is still talking about it.  Again, the bacon didn’t overpower the mushrooms, but just added a hint of smoke.

The red wine and egg made the dish so rich and hearty it was something I would want to eat after being outside building a snowman!  And since Seattle was pretty chilly and wet, it was the perfect dish to warm us up…and make me feel ready to crawl into bed!

 

 

 

 

We ended the meal with the Mishima Ranch waygu hanger steak with gnocchi and veggies and a side of

Robuchon potatoes.  This was my least favorite dish of the night, though the meat was perfectly cooked.

The gnocchi seemed more like a polenta cake, and the Robuchon potatoes, though delicious, were really just mashed potatoes with a butter to potato to cream ratio of about 1:1:1.  Good, but not worth ordering again.

Unfortunately, we had to forego the cheese course because, seriously, I was so full I couldn’t breathe.  If I had 3 meals in Seattle, I would definitely eat at Lark again.   The food was thoughtful and delicious, the staff was friendly, and the wine was unique and well priced.

The Hungry Cat, Santa Barbara

 

 

When we were in Santa Barbara last weekend, I ate at The Hungry Cat…twice.  I lunch at the Cat on Friday for a bridal lingerie shower, and my husband was so sad he missed out on the deliciousness, he made me promise I would eat there again with him.  It wasn’t much of a sacrifice to make that promise.  We discovered The Hungry Cat last August when we travelled to Santa Barbara for vacation.  A friend recommended the restaurant and we made reservations, not really knowing what to expect (and more than a little worried about eating at a place with the word “cat” in the name). We have yet to be disappointed in something we’ve ordered at The Hungry Cat.

Like everything in Santa Barbara, the restaurant is casual and looks like a corner bistro you would see in Paris.  It has probably 40 seats and the specials are written on a chalkboard on the wall.

 They always have several different kinds of oysters and several different kinds of cheese, as if they invented this restaurant just to satisfy my wishes!  I shared a dozen assorted oysters with my friend Annie,  I love Kumamoto oysters so I assumed those would be my favorites, but the Pacific Gold oysters from good ole’ Cali stole the show.  They were briny, not too big and very meaty.  The Hungry Cat also had Mignionette instead of plain old cocktail sauce so I was incredibly happy.I also had the fish tacos.  They were amazing.  I’m not typically a huge fish taco person because I feel like putting fish on tacos is like putting bacon on a salad: it overpowers the other flavors and makes everything taste like fish (or in the latter comparison, bacon).

 

But these fish tacos had homemade tortillas AND queso fresco so I decided, worst case scenario, I could eat the fish separately and enjoy the tacos sans fish.  I shouldn’t have given it a second thought because the tacos were amazing just as they were.

They put pickled carrot on top of the tacos which at first seemed decidedly un-Mexican.  But then I remembered that some of the Mexican joints around town serve relish alongside the chips and salsa.  This mexican relish is pickled veggies, including carrot so I retract my original statement.

The homemade tortillas really made the dish complete.  They were the PERFECT texture.  Slightly doughy and warm, but not as thick as pita.

This fish was mild and sauteed, and the whole dish was fresh and light!

After I ahnialated the fish tacos, we ordered dessert. We ordered 5 cheeses and a meyer lemon parfait.  They were both SO good.  The parfait was sweet, tart and creamy.  The lemon curd was perfectly gelled and the whipped cream separated the curd like a cloudy little barrier.  The sugar cookies on the side were also amazing.

 

And oh Jesus, the cheeses!  They were served with marcona olives and a fresh honeycomb alongside grilled bread that had a very delicious, smoky texture.  There were five cheeses, and I wish I could remember all of them.  Unfortunately, the only one I remember is Humboldt Fog.  It was so amazing, especially with the honey.

 

On Sunday, I had oysters again.  Then I had something VERY uncharacteristic for me.  It was called the pug burger, and I’d been dreaming about it since we ate at The Hungry Cat last August.  It’s a hamburger topped with bacon, bleu cheese and a FRIED EGG, and served with french fries.  It is seriously messy and really difficult to eat in any kind of polite and ladylike way which makes it pretty much the perfect burger!  It was so freaking good, I ate it, made a mess of myself, and ate it some more.  It was amazing.

My mom had the crab cake benedict.  It was made with black kale and

bacon and hollandaise, of course.  It was a really interesting twist on a traditional eggs benedict.