October 2015 Bar Bulletin
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Putting the Palate to the Metal

 

When you think of food, "metal" is not a word that immediately springs to mind. Upon deeper reflection, one realizes that the elemental makeup, shapes, colors, uses and forms of metal are as varied as the food that we eat and, in this column, describe.

Indeed, metal, in its many forms, is absolutely necessary to the preparation of a great meal. Think of the iron skillets, woks and grills that your meals are prepared on. Or the metal utensils you use to eat them with. So it is fitting, in light of the symbiotic relationship between metal and food, that we searched and found several great restaurants where this relationship is highlighted.

It has been a few years since we visited Golden Beetle in Ballard (1744 NW Market St.; 706-2977; golden-beetle.com/home/), so we considered the metal theme to be a good excuse to check out its new menu.

Golden Beetle, one of Maria Hines' three restaurants, has an eastern Mediterranean flair, with heavy influences of Turkey and Greece, but also Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. The walls are decorated with pictures of Hines' trips to that region to investigate the flavors and spices. The craft cocktail menu, like the menu itself, is seasonal to showcase local organic and seasonal ingredients.

We dined on a variety of the small-plate items. First, we started with the wood-fired clams with sweet pepper freekeh (a grain) and harissa broth (fairly spicy). Bread seemed superfluous to the freekeh, so we used a spoon so as not to waste any of the flavorful broth. Za'atar-spiced French fries - very seasoned - with a fairly spicy aioli gave a lot of interest to a familiar dish. We wolfed down the baba ganoush with fluffy, white pita bread. Our favorite was the bulgur-lamb meatballs served over more baba ganoush, with pine nut and date puree.

There were tempting large-plate items, but with four small plates for two people we had not left room for dessert, which was tempting enough that we may go back to try the stone fruit panna cotta and the chocolate truffle torte, or maybe the Turkish coffee, mousse Napoleon.

Several items on the craft cocktail list were tempting, but we went with a fun option - "I'm in your hands," allowing the bartender to customize a cocktail just for us. It turned out very well, both refreshing and complex (good enough to order a second).

Sweet Iron - the Real Liège Waffle (1200 Third Ave., Seattle; 682-3336; sweetironwaffles.com), is a lovely and tasty option for breakfast, lunch, midmorning snack or dessert. It was started several years ago by Adrienne Jeffrey, a local attorney who became familiar with Liège waffles (from the city of Liège) during the time she spent in Belgium as a child.

Convinced there was a market for the waffles in Seattle, in 2008 she traveled back to Belgium with her daughter to research the custom and techniques of making Belgian waffles. Liège waffles are traditional yeast waffles, each bite yielding a surprise of crunch and sweetness from pearl sugar. At Sweet Iron, the dough is ready to go and once an order is placed, your waffle is pressed and cooked on a hot, authentic, cast-iron waffle iron.

The topping options include both savory and sweet - from a traditional waffle dusted with powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate, to brie, basil and bacon, or strawberries and whipped cream. The brie, basil and bacon were a great combination of flavors and textures and fully satisfying as a meal. The prosciutto, crème fraiche and onion combination was similar in depth and complexity. A bite of the traditional was the perfect finish accompanied by Stumptown coffee.

Do not overlook Sweet Iron as a catering option. It's a great alternative for breakfast meetings and a welcome change of taste from the usual fare. The waffles are also an inspired idea for sweet selections at other times of the day, and are available by the dozen and frozen.

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar (1225 Fourth Ave., Seattle; 829-2280; purplecafe.com), has become a staple, downtown, business lunch location, but with a distinct atmosphere and style that set it apart. The name itself evokes plush velvet or irises or other "soft" imagery. However, the first thing a visitor is confronted with upon entering Purple is the massive, heavy, iron doors.

Heavy iron is present everywhere you turn, from the curved hostess stand with its swooping panel of weathered sheet metal and the wine tower with a spiral staircase that dominates the center of the restaurant space, to the heavy iron chairs that require some effort to move, all the way to the iron napkin holders. Purple is all about the heavy metal. (The ownership group is known as Heavy Restaurant Group.)

The food at Purple does not disappoint. The menu is varied and offers different takes on common ingredients. For example, the calamari appetizer, unlike the deep-fried versions you'll find in many places, is sauteed so the meat is tender and not chewy, and packed with flavor from the capers, castelvetrano olives, garlic, chili flakes, chickpeas and tomatoes that accompany it. This appetizer is nearly a meal in itself and is complemented nicely with grilled bread that soaks up the white wine sauce with all those combined flavors.

Purple also offers a variety of salad options, from a traditional chopped salad to a tangy and flavorful quinoa and arugula combination. The kale Caesar is a particularly nice complement to the calamari appetizer, with spare ingredients, a flavorful, but not overpowering dressing, and fresh and tasty croutons.

Of course, a visit to Purple is not complete without trying the Maine lobster, baked mac and cheese. If you want decadence with your comfort, this entree brings it home. Purple is not shy with its lobster portions, which offer a nice textural and flavor contrast to the rich, soft and creamy mac and cheese. The sauce itself is a gruyere base, and when combined with truffled breadcrumbs to top it off, your eyes will be rolling back in your head.

One word to the wise, however: If you're going to go with the mac and cheese for lunch, don't plan on getting a lot done in the afternoon. You will definitely need to put a scheduled food coma on your calendar.

Salare Restaurant (2404 NE 65th St., Seattle; 556-2192; salarerestaurant.com), located in the heart of Ravenna, is a warm and inviting neighborhood dining spot. Filled and buzzing with conversation, the community table in the main room is framed by smaller tables and a bar situated on the back wall. A kitchen bar is located beyond the main room.


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