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This recipe was inspired by a recent visit to Piroshky Piroshky, the small, wonderful-smelling Russian bakery in the Pike Place market.  They make some of my favorite street food, and I can’t make a trip to Pike Place without stopping by for a snack.  On my latest trip, I tried their salmon paté piroshky (a piroshky is a stuffed, flaky, handheld pie) and it was divine.  This “calzone” doesn’t attempt to recreate the salmon piroshky, but was simply inspired by it.  The mascarpone cheese melts away during baking, leaving the rich smoked salmon moist and delicious. 

Makes: 2 Coho Calzones
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes

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Bricco Collage

Have you ever walked into a place and immediately felt like you’d found what you’ve always been looking for?  That’s how I feel about  Bricco della Regina Anna (or “Bricco” for short).  Bricco is a restaurant and wine bar located on the main drag of upper Queen Anne, on a sleepy block that’s also home to Betty, Chocopolis, and the boarded-up shell of the former Queen Anne hardware store.  The best thing about this location?  I can walk to it!  But don’t let that color my review – being within my promenade-radius is not a requirement for a great eatery.

A freestanding ledge loosely segregates Bricco’s dining room between dinner guests and passers-by who have stopped in for a glass of wine.  The latter group is quite fortunate: the wine list, carefully selected by Wine Director Andrew Bresnik, is formidable.  This isn’t surprising, given that the back wall of the dining room is a window to their walk-in wine cellar.  But if you don’t know your Semillon from your Chardonnay, don’t fret.  The wait staff is not only helpful and knowledgeable, but non-judgmental – if you can swallow your ego long enough to ask for a recommendation, you won’t be disappointed.

It’s more than just the wine that keeps me coming back to Bricco, though.  For starters, the first page of their menu lists only cheese and salumi.  In my opinion, this should have been the 11th commandment.  The rest of the menu is composed of frequently-changing, à la carte salads, panini and entreés ($4 to approx. $18).  Though the menu is small, everything is exquisitely executed.  Chef and owner Kevin Erickson has hit a bulls eye with his balance of traditional and inventive bistro fare.  And most of the dishes are so rich and beautifully presented that I feel nether guilty nor hungry when the meal is over.  A few of my personal favorites: smoked trout salad with roasted beets and crème fraîche ($12), smoked salmon bruschetta ($4), and lamb sliders (pictured bottom left).

I’d recommend leaving room for dessert, too.  Bricco’s roasted pears with huckleberry honey, aged balsamic vinegar and mascarpone is heavenly.  Throw in a glass of port, and you’ve just enjoyed the kind of leisurely decompression that’s normally reserved for European poets.

Contrary to rumors that the restaurant was up for sale, the folks behind Bricco are actually expanding its horizons.  Starting soon, Bricco will feature a full alcohol bar, complete with the sophisticated libations Seattleites have come to expect from expert mixologists.  The owners are also opening Moshi Moshi Sushi (name unconfirmed) in Ballard.  If they manage to create the same restaurant charisma as they’ve done with Bricco, I’ll be first in line, chopsticks in hand!

Bricco Della Regina Anna on Urbanspoon

[photo (clockwise from upper left): cheese and salumi platter, beef tenderloin, lamb sliders, Nutella panini]
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TASTE collage  
Imagine, if you will, an art museum restaurant.  Make the image in your head very vivid, very detailed.  In fact, close your eyes and picture this restaurant…  (OK, open your eyes now so you can keep reading.)  Now, imagine the sterile, lifeless walls of that restaurant covered with vibrant Seattle artwork.  Those heat lamps you’re picturing in the kitchen?  Replace them with pans of slowly roasting, locally-raised pork shoulders.  The cafeteria-inspired, cavernous dining room?  Swap it for about an upscale, inviting decor with a first-class bar and a wall full of Pacific Northwest wine.  Now you’re just barely starting to get the picture of TASTE, the Seattle Art Museum’s bold, revitalized restaurant.

On a recent visit to TASTE, I was very impressed with not only the atmosphere and the quality of the food, but also the karmic value of my dinner.  In the last two years, TASTE has managed to source 69% of its ingredients from local farmers, infusing over $1M back into family-owned farms.  Particularly relevant to today’s economy, TASTE’s dedication to supporting small and local farms is commendable.

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