I had the recent pleasure of a visit to the newly-opened Sip at the Wine Bar & Restaurant in downtown Seattle.  I’m typically cynical of places that 1) are chain restaurants, and 2) have both “wine bar” and “restaurant” in the title.  However, I’m happy to report that the folks at Sip exceeded my expectations, in general.

The first defining feature of Sip is its location – directly across the street from the architecturally fascinating Seattle Public Library.  And although the restaurant’s design isn’t quite as extreme (no curvy iridescent escalators), the wrap-around picture windows and dimly-lit ambiance take full advantage of the location’s urban scenery. 

As you might imagine, the wine list is extensive, offering both local and international bottles.  Bottles start at $25, glasses start at $7, and if you’re a fan of variety, you’ll be happy to know that all wines by the glass are also available by the half-glass.  I chose to start off the meal with a gin cocktail in a burnt sugar-rimmed glass.  It was a slightly sweet-and-sour, and a nice accompaniment for Sip’s salty and seared appetizers.

I enjoyed the tender and well-seasoned Vietnamese Caramel Beef ($12), but the standout of the starters was the Bacon & Eggs ($13, pictured above).  The dish is served as a cube of braised pork belly with a soft-boiled and lightly fried duck egg.  I thought this was a great interpretation of the classic combination – salty, sweet, crunchy and… porky.  I also enjoyed the flavors of the pickled beet salad, particularly the crispy beet chips.  Unfortunately, the salad was impossible to consume without spilling half on the tablecloth; for reference, 2” wide olive dishes don’t make good salad plates.

I was excited, as always, to see braised short ribs on the menu.  The dish, $19, was described on the menu as “boneless ribs, parmesan ‘jo-jos,’ arugula salad, meyer lemon gremolata, parmigiano & red wine braising jus”.  What the menu neglected to mention was that the short rib was spiced so heavily with what I assume to be cayenne pepper, that all other flavors were undetectable.  That said, the parmesan fries weren’t bad, and the meat was tender.  The Flat Iron “Chivitio” ($22, described well by blogger and friend Jay at Gastrolust) was a much more pleasant dish, flavored intensely with smoke and char, and topped with the fatty softness of a duck egg.  If I kept duck eggs in my kitchen, I’d put them on everything, too.

I must say, though, that the best dish of the night was actually dessert – the Roasted Sugar Pie Pumpkin Cheesecake ($8).  It was light and velvety, with the vivid flavor of roasted pumpkin.  Well doe, chef  Allison Jester. 

All in all, the food at Sip exceeded my expectations, modest as they were.  However, the menu prices thus far haven’t followed the budget-conscious trend set by some other Seattle joints.  But, if you like to cap off your day of downtown shopping and public library book reading with a glass of wine and a steak, Sip at the Wine Bar & Restaurant is a fine choice.

Sip Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Full Disclosure: I got free food, but that doesn’t pay for my opinion.

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headshot square white 1024px 2009 has been a great year for food in Seattle, but with the new year just around the corner, I thought I’d share my guesses insight into what we’ll see in restaurants and home kitchens 2010.  Some of these may be national trends, but as Pacific Northwesters, we tend to be the canaries in the coalmine, especially when discussing what we put in our bodies. 
As always, there will be a balance of healthy, socially-conscious eating and perverse gluttony (see Bacon Explosion). 

Seattle will go sous-vide crazy

svs-ModernRackFinal-393 The fancy restaurants have already been doing it for years (though, perhaps illegally).  But in 2010, I predict that sous-vide preparations will start showing up on restaurant menus everywhere (like The Keg and McCormick & Schmick’s), not just at cutting-edge gastropubs.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, sous-vide describes a cooking method where food is vacu-sealed and heated very slowly (hours or even days) in temperature-controlled water baths.  The method lets cooks achieve heavenly textures not achievable with an oven, stove or fry-o-lator.  2009 saw the release of the SousVide Supreme, the world’s first home-use water oven.  But at $499, it only appeals to serious food geeks (even I don’t have one yet).  I predict that 2010 will give us the “George Foreman Grill of sous-vide”, an afforable, mass-market water oven, complete with late night infomercial.

 

Homemade Pasta is the new Canvolution

Papardelle with Sweet Potato and Spinach There’s nothing new about homemade pasta.  Nor is there anything new about canned foods.  Both are oldschool, inexpensive, and very social ways of preparing food.  2009 gave rise to a huge wave of canning parties, covered under the umbrella movement of “Canvolution”.  I predict a similar wave of ad-hoc food gatherings next year, and I think homemade pasta could be the recipe of choice.  Making pasta – particularly rolling and cutting noodles – is a fun group activity.  Plus, dried pasta lasts forever and makes for a great gift (just like canned goods).  Stock up on Semolina flour – it’s gonna be a carb-tastic new year!

 

Sliders Out, Rillettes In

salmon rillet You know sliders are falling out of fashion when they appear on the menu at Jack-In-The-Box.  Although the mini-burgers enjoyed  their time in the spotlight at almost every restaurant in the city, it’s time for us to move on to the next “it” dish.  My prediction: rillettes.  Sure, they lack the mass appeal of a very small hamburger, but these spreadable potted meats are a total rustic treat.  The first rillette I ever tasted was a creamy little pot of salmon at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in New York.  Let me tell you, it left an impression.  Although pâté may be hopelessly off the mainstream, I think rillettes have a fighting chance.

 

Other Predictions, Hopes and Ramblings…

  1. Cupcakes are over.  And so are the Pinkberry knockoffs.  Please, let’s move on.
  2. Sustainable sushi will be the new norm.  With more and more diners checking sustainable seafood watchlists at the dinner table, we can no longer gorge on unagi without social consequences.  Bravo to chefs like Hajime at West Seattle’s Mashiko for leading the charge.
  3. Salts on the rise.  Look for specialty salts to play a major role in restaurant menus.  Oh, and regular table salt is so last decade.  If it’s not Chardonnay-smoked, truffle-infused, or from an obscure seaport town in France, I’m not interested.
  4. We get it: bacon is delicious and makes for ironic kitsch.  Let’s find a new punch line in 2010.  How about blowfish?
  5. Seattle chefs embrace (or at least tinker with) molecular gastronomy.  It may not be for everyone, but molecular gastronomy – sciencey food made through extremely geeky methods – is still turning heads around the country.  There are a number of brave Seattle chefs are already having fun with science, but in a city with so many artists, I have to believe the best (and weirdest) is yet to come.
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Wedding Photo

Sorry it’s been awhile since my last post, but I was off getting married to the love of my life, Rachel.  The wedding was better than we ever dreamed it would be and we’ve spent the past nine days on our honeymoon drinking margaritas and soaking up the sun in Mexico.  I’ll post a full write-up when we get more photos back from our photographer.  I’d also like to give a big thanks to all of our vendors, every one of whom was amazing!

And if you’re feeling particularly curious, our photographer has a few more shots up on his blog.

More to come soon…

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