Archive for November, 2011

Date Night #8: One-Minute History Lesson

November 29th, 2011 by Shelley Goulding

When Scandinavians thronged to the once-independent town of Ballard in the early 1900s, they shared their strong cultural identity with a community that eventually voted to join the city of Seattle. These days, Ballard is hip, hoppin’, and seems to be where every second new restaurant in town opens.

There remains, though, a flavor of Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian cultures in several neighborhood spots, including the Nordic Heritage Museum and the fishing fleets along the Washington Ship Canal. On this date night, Mike and I returned to a restaurant that meshes the old and the new Ballard, with a firm nod to its Nordic traditions.

Copper Gate is located pretty much due west of our Seattle bed & breakfast – the easiest route is NW 65th Street to 24th Ave NW, hang a left, and park. You might miss the low-key (read: plain) façade – just a brownish building with an authentically retro neon sign from the joint’s pure tavern days. Once inside, you can’t miss the huge Viking ship/bar sailing through the center of the room.

Friendly staff help you ascertain your readiness for fish cakes, Scandinavian-style. (Unlike crispy crab cakes, these are moist and slightly rubbery, but not in a bad way.) While Mike enjoys everything fishy, he opted for Swedish meatballs because he had a hankering for the Lingonberry preserves served with them. Our server talked me into the coriander honey pork skewers as I debated the merits of those vs. Aquavit-coffee braised short ribs. Good choice.

What I really liked about our meal is that the portions were as reasonable as the prices. Our dinners were satisfying and not at all skimpy; yet our plates weren’t heaped with a quantity of food you either feel obligated to eat (if you’re a member of the clean-plate club, as I am), or have boxed up to take home (then accidentally leave behind when you leave). We got out of there for something like $35, which included our dinners, a shared cheese and fruit plate, glass of wine for me, and cocktail for Mike.

The evening was young, so we headed a few blocks south to Aster Coffee Lounge, a comfortable, spacious place that goes way beyond coffee! We could’ve done happy hour there – they serve beer and wine; or lunch – good-looking prepared sandwiches; or breakfast – yummy bakery goods, even hard-boiled eggs. I dipped a tasty orange chocolate chip biscotti in my latte while Mike made a magic bar (chocolate, coconut, and other gooey goodness) disappear like, well, you know…magic. The lounge is open ‘til 10 most nights, making it a great after-dinner destination, unless you’re going for the monthly bizarre movie night. But that’s a date for another day.

Date Night #7: Perfect Night for a Pint and a Pie

November 20th, 2011 by Shelley Goulding

Tried to photograph the pie, but it disappeared too quickly.

Winter seems to have arrived early here in Seattle. No snow, but tonight’s temperature was a slightly nippy 40 degrees. Now I like cool weather, but the sudden chill in the air sent Mike and me in search of toasty comfort for our date this evening.

We didn’t have to venture too far afield. Just up the street – 14 blocks to be exact – is a little place called Prost! As you would expect, it has beer: Spaten, Bitburger, Vetltins, Franziskaner, Maisel’s, Kostritzer, and a rotating German tap. Some wine and liquor as well, but beer is clearly the thing here.

And German munchies. Meat heavy, to be sure, with brats and sauerkraut all over the menu. The servings are restrained, so you don’t walk out of there feeling like you totally pigged out. My regular brat and kraut came with a couple of rye toast points and a small mustard selection. Mike declared his curry wurst to be the best he’s had outside of Berlin. And the pretzel! It was like going home to my Pennsylvania roots – huge, hot, and crusty. Not at all like those chewy, salty, clammy hunks of dough masquerading as soft pretzels at the local sports venues. I must say that it was kind of appropriate that the Philadelphia Eagles were playing football on TV during our meal.

Prost! Is a cozy spot to hang out for longer than we actually did. Because we were sated yet not stuffed, we followed through with our tentative plan to try the new pie place that is literally around the corner from our Seattle bed & breakfast. Called á la mode, this little corner store serves up slices, mini pies, whole pies, and lollipies (think about it, you’ll get it) – ice cream optional.

Mike tried the pie that started it all, according to Chris, the owner: the Blue Hawaiian. Blueberry, crushed pineapple, and coconut. He wasn’t expecting to like it as much as he did, which was a ton. “Original and great,” he says; it spoke to his inner Elvis.  I’m more of a pie traditionalist, so I went for the sour cherry. And I didn’t go wrong. Sweet and sour at the same time, with a fabulous dry and crunchy crust. That both Mike and I liked the coffee as well ensures that we will return probably too many times for our own good. In fact I’m quite worried because I pass this place both coming and going on my daily run.