Just six elements - carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, calcium and phosphorus - make up almost 99 percent of the mass of a human body. In addition to those, humans require consumption of at least a dozen more elements in the form of certain chemical compounds.
A chemical element is pure, consisting of one type of atom. These are divided into metals, metalloids and non-metals, and include carbon, oxygen, silicon, arsenic, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury and lead.
A classical element usually refers to the Greek or Chinese identification of Earth, Water, Air and Fire as the four elements of life. Some classical thinkers included a fifth element or "quintessence," or "Aether" in ancient Greek and India. In Hinduism, the four states-of-matter (Earth, Water, Air and Fire) describe life on Earth, and the fifth element describes life beyond the material world. In Buddhism, the elements describe sensory experience (essential for fine dining).
All of these thoughts about elements made us hungry. We want a sensory experience when we dine out. The taste of the food matters as well as meeting our elemental needs. And, Seattle has a long history of "elemental" dining scenes.
A word to the wise about elemental Seattle establishments that are no longer: Goldie's on 45th (Wallingford, where the Iron Bull now charges forth), The Oxygen Bar (Broadway), Iron Horse Grill (remember the trains that brought your food?), Earth and Ocean at the W, and, the name that says it all, Elemental (Wallingford).
In the current restaurant scene, many establishments connect themselves to an element. For example, the Pig Iron Bar-B-Q (5602 First Ave. S., Seattle; 768-1009; www.pigironbbq.net) is fairly well-known for those willing to venture into the industrial district, having garnered several favorable reviews from local publications.
Pig Iron Bar-B-Q infuses its local meats with a southern flavor. We would definitely go back for both the pulled pork and the catfish. Our favorite item was the jalapeno spinach casserole side dish. The food arrives without a lot of barbecue sauce on it and with three barbecue sauce options at the table (regular, smoky and mustard). None of these are particularly spicy, but with hot sauces also available, you can tailor to your taste.
Pig Iron emphasizes more of the pig and less of the iron in its decor, which includes scattered pig trinkets. We plan to return for more pulled pork and jalapeno spinach casserole.
The Copper Coin (2329 California Ave. SW, Seattle; 420-3608; www.coppercoinseattle.com) is the quintessential local brew pub. It shines, as its name suggests. You know the basic elements: hearty and varied food, casual vibe, for kids or grown-ups, broad beer selection, comfortable atmosphere and comfortable prices. The Copper Coin hits all of these.
The big booths feel very private. The service was welcoming and attentive. Happy hour (3-6 p.m. or 9 p.m. to close) beckons every day, which makes a weekend stop after a walk on Alki or a flick at the Admiral Theater (two doors down) a must. You will feel well satisfied and happy for the value.
For starters, try the delicious Vietnamese beef skewers, with a tasty and sizeable slaw in a scrumptious peanut sauce, or Babe's onion rings, cooked exactly as directed by Red Mill Burger's Babe herself. The menu offers soups and salads, burgers, "Alki Street Tacos" with cod, salmon or Vietnamese beef fillings, and main dishes. All the house-made dipping sauces were good. The kids' menu was standard, which is all kids seem to want.
You can wet your whistle with 20 beers on tap or Northwest wines also offered on tap, or by the glass or bottle. The Copper Coin isn't reinventing anything, but it doesn't have to. It's solid.
One establishment that truly lives up to its name is Golden Beetle (1744 NW Market St., Seattle; 706-2977; www.golden-beetle.com), a Mediterranean gem in downtown Ballard. This intimate location features mosaic lanterns, an open kitchen, and a unique cocktail menu to accompany its scrumptious organic small plates.
We started out with some fluffy flatbread and Serrano chili hummus, and moved right into some grilled Halloumi cheese on a bed of arugula. We stuck with small plates, enjoying delicate roasted Brussels sprouts, flaky spanakopita, and white-wine-soaked Manila clams. The gold star of the evening went to the pork belly falafel, however; we loved the salty pork mixed with crunchy cole slaw in warm mini-pita pockets. With small plates, Turkish wood-fired pizza, tagines and more, diners can treasure a night at Golden Beetle.
It seems an elementary proposition that waffles are a breakfast treat few can resist. The occasional indulgence can be offset with a few extra minutes on the treadmill. The temptation now is just a few blocks away for many living or working in the downtown core. Sweet Iron Waffles (1200 Third Ave., Seattle; 682-3336; www.sweetironwaffles.com) set up shop on the east side of Third Avenue, between Seneca and University.
It is a small venue, with two waffle irons and just six tables. Most business is takeout. The waffles are made of brioche-style yeast dough and, given their size, are surprisingly filling. A number of sweet and savory toppings complement the waffles. Brulee banana is a breakfast favorite. Most waffles are in the $6-7 range.
While a steady breakfast diet of decadent waffles might not be recommended by the AMA, swinging by Sweet Iron Waffles every once in a while is a guilty pleasure not to be missed.
Last but not least is Salty's on Alki (1936 Harbor Ave. SW, Seattle; www.saltys.com/seattle). First, we know what you are thinking: "Wait, salt is not an element!" But you have doubt. Because you are a lawyer, and not a scientist, and you are attempting to remember high school chemistry when you could recall the Periodic Table instead of the subparts of Civil Rule 12(b).
We understand. Waffle no more. It's true. Salt is not an element because it is composed of more than one type of atom. But sometimes the best part of an element is its potential to combine to create something extraordinary.
"Sodium Chloride's on Alki," better known as Salty's, offers sweeping views of the Seattle city skyline and a brunch buffet. While pancake bars and waffle stations are all the rage during brunch, a savory midday meal is the true test of any brunch. Salty's passes with dozens of tables featuring all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab, fresh local oysters, clams, peel-it-yourself shrimp and Pacific Northwest salmon. There are hand-carved roasts, sausage, bacon, ham, pasta and omelets made to order. The varied pastry selection allows you to combine flavors to make your own truly extraordinary meal.
There are 118 identified elements. We covered only three and half. Noticeably lacking in the restaurant department was anything remotely touching on arsenic, aluminum, mercury or lead. We found this comforting. Of the 118 known elements, only 98 occur naturally on Earth and much fewer than that in the Seattle restaurant scene. Only 80 of the elements are stable. The rest are radioactive and, therefore, not currently in vogue as edible.
For those interested in further foraging for elements, we were unable to get to the Copperleaf Restaurant and Bar (Sea-Tac), the Copper Gate in Ballard, and the Iron Bull also in Ballard.
The most recently discovered element is ununseptium. It was discovered in 2010 at a nuclear lab in Russia. Seriously. Its half-life is 112 milliseconds. Should there ever be a restaurant in Seattle named "Ununseptium," do not bring home the leftovers.
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is a multiservice, Northwest regional law firm with offices in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Bend. For comments on this article or to share your favorite places to eat or drink with the Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt attorneys, contact Averil Rothrock at 206-589-8121 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx. Follow us on Twitter @schwabedinesout.