Eating both chicken livers and beef tongue in one meal makes for a good day. Doing so for two meals, well, makes me quite happy. Which is what happened on my recent day trip to Seattle, Washington. Considering Seattle is only about 3 hours south of Vancouver (including crossing the border), I don’t visit nearly enough. And when I do it’s typically to shop, so this touristy/foodie trip was long overdue. A friend and I drove down early one morning and hit up the Space Needle and Chihuly Exhibit as well as Pike Place Market, with a few food stops along the way.
Part 1 covers: Paseo, Dot’s Delicatessen, Honore Artisan Bakery, and D’Ambrosio Gelateria.
And check out Part 2 for: The Confectional, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine, and Le Pichet.
First stop was an early lunch at the original Fremont location of Paseo, a Caribbean sandwich joint (it also has a location in Ballard). Mind you, this isn’t any ordinary sandwich joint. In fact, it’s the most Yelp reviewed spot in Seattle and the #1 ranked restaurant on Urbanspoon Seattle. Why? Well, TLC has declared that its Cuban Roast Sandwich is the second best sandwich in America, and featured Paseo on its Best Food Ever show. So why am I talking about a sandwich on this primal blog? Well, because if I ate pork, I’d have it bunless.
My friend ordered one and deemed it the best sandwich he has ever had. I tried the onions and the sauce to see what all the fuss was about, and they were delicious – I could definitely see why everyone raves about this sandwich. It’s now called the Caribbean Roast, and it’s pork shoulder coated in Paseo marinade, and topped with cilantro, pickled jalapenos, romaine lettuce and caramelized onions. The bun is slathered with aioli. The sauce was amazing, a little sweet, but balanced by the kick of the jalapeno. The massive onion slices were juicy. And the pork, according to my friend, was incredibly tender and flavorful.
The restaurant itself was a small metal shed that doesn’t even have a sign. But it’s clean, bright and cheerful. There’s only a few tables – people mostly just stand or take their food to go. Line-ups are long, but they move fast. Service is friendly and helpful.
They do also have bowls, entrees, and sides of meat, but apparently this place is all about the sandwiches. Next time I’m in Seattle, I’ll have to try the Chicken Thigh sandwich (bunless), which has also gotten great reviews, and apparently comes close to being the chicken equivalent of the Cuban Roast. The only reason I didn’t order one was because my next stop, Dot’s Delicatessen was right across the street.
Dot’s Delicatessen is a deli/butcher shop in Fremont. Their menu includes sausages, sandwiches, and their daily special entrees (e.g. steak), or you can take some of their meats or charcuterie home.
The space is fresh, open, and modern. Service wasn’t overly welcoming and it took a while to get the food even though they weren’t very busy, but the people working there were nice and helpful enough. Unfortunately for me, 99% of the stuff there was pork. Would it have killed them to have a beef sausage? :P
So, I had the only two non-pork things in the entire place, which would end up recurring later that day: beef tongue and chicken liver mousse. The tongue was sliced super thin, sprinkled with some coarse salt and drizzled with a little bit of oil. The presentation was nice, on a rustic wooden block. Both were delicious. It was actually my first time trying beef tongue, and it did not disappoint. It was very tender, and rather flavorful – the salt complemented it nicely. The chicken liver was very strong flavored, which I liked. Is it just me or does that liver in the picture look like a scoop of some sort of Neapolitan ice cream? I was surprised that for a deli there was no cheese? It would’ve been a nice accompaniment to the charcuterie. If you like pork, you’ll be happy here.
Honore Artisan Bakery
When I googled and researched the best bakery in Seattle, Honore popped up more often than all others, amongst praise of “best ____ in Seattle” (fill in blank with favourite treat, one of which was macarons). So it was clear that this was indeed the bakery to try.
Honore is located in a nice residential neighbourhood in Ballard, and I perceived the line-up out the door to be a good sign. Although honestly the shop is so small, that a line-up would result if they had more than a few customers. I had read some poor reviews of the service, but I didn’t have any problems myself, and found the people behind the counter friendly.
Honore sells an assortment of pastries and desserts. I was told that the only gluten-free items were the caramels and the macarons. Their dessert selection included 3 different types of mousses, but apparently they all had flour as a component, and the lady working there wasn’t sure if it was just the crust, or what. It’s a small shop – I’m surprised that she wouldn’t know. Anyway, we ordered 3 macarons (pistachio, coconut, and passion fruit), a caramel, a sour cherry chocolate mousse (forgot actual name), and for my friend a canelé (because all the reviewers were raving about them) and a gougère.
Perhaps it’s not fair to compare this bakery to my favourites in Vancouver, since those are run by world-renown pastry chefs (Thierry and Thomas Haas). But then where are the equivalents in Seattle – do they exist? Because that’s what I was looking for, and that’s what I was expecting when visiting what some say is Seattle’s best bakery. Having tried the goods at Honore, I feel very fortunate to have Thierry and Thomas Haas in Vancouver. Mind you to be fair, before these two opened up shop, Vancouver’s dessert scene was nothing to write home about.
Put quite simply, you cannot substitute sugar for refinement. Everything I tried at Honore was cloyingly sweet. The cherry chocolate mousse dessert (which I took a risk and tried, making sure to avoid the crust) was gross. It was way too sweet, and the texture of the mousse was off – it was almost clumpy, and definitely not smooth or silky. My friend wasn’t impressed with the gougère or canelé either, with the latter also being very sugary. The macarons? They lacked finesse. Soirette, how I missed thee while eating those macarons. The texture was strange, they weren’t light and airy like Soirette’s. Nor were they chewy like Thierry’s. They just sort of crumbled and collapsed when I bit into them or cut them in half. And of course, they too were sickly sweet. The best thing there was the salted caramel – it had a nice texture and was pretty tasty (yes, it was sweet also, but it’s a caramel so that’s expected).
Overall, I was completely disappointed by Honore. If you have a recommendation for a Seattle bakery/dessert spot, I’d love to hear it.
Vancouver doesn’t have much of an ice cream/gelato scene, other than the fantastic Bella Gelateria (review coming soon). So since Seattle appeared to have several contenders to choose from, I had to narrow it down to one, and I chose D’Ambrosio Gelato – said to be one of, if not the, best gelato in Seattle.
D’Ambrosio Gelato has two locations, one in Capitol Hill and the other is in Ballard – we visited the latter. We were the only customers on a weekend afternoon. In fact, the whole area seemed rather sleepy. There were lots of restaurants and bars though, so I’m guessing the action starts later in the day?
The shop was pretty large and the service was friendly. Prices were reasonable. I sampled a few flavors, and they all tasted promising. I settled on amaretto, pistachio, and rum & raisin. My friend had pistachio and Kirsch cherry.
The gelato flavors were very strong, which at first grabs you by surprise and seems awesome. But while the gelato does taste good, after eating more of it, the flavors are almost too much to handle – like you’re eating the extracts since naturally the flavors would never be as bold. Also, the texture of the gelato isn’t as dense and creamy as I’d like.
Although the gelato was enjoyable, I would like to try some of Seattle’s other gelato and ice cream shops, in the hopes of finding one more worthy of the Best in Seattle title.
The first part of the day was off to a pretty good start, but the fun continued at Pike Place Market and then Le Pichet for dinner, read on for Primal-ish in Seattle Part 2.