Boat Street still sailing along

The news was dire.  I read Renee Erickson was closing her lovely restaurant Boat Street Cafe, to focus on several new enterprises.  The restaurant is mere blocks from my office but it had been years since I’d gone there for either lunch or dinner.  Now that it appeared to be going away, I jumped at the invitation of co-workers to have a “last hurrah” lunch in the airy, white space.  Down the steep driveway and around the overflowing planters, into the lush courtyard and through the door into the cafe, everything was exactly as I’d remembered from my last, long-ago visit.

Seated by the friendly staff, we perused the single page menu.  Much to my delight, there at the top in big letters was the news that, though the Cafe was closing, the “Kitchen” portion of the enterprise was not only staying open but was expanding into the main dining area.  Crisis averted!  Of equal importance, given our level of hunger, were the choices available for immediate consumption.  Lentils can sound like a meager dish but in the hands of the Boat Street chefs, they are rich and savory, mixed with wilted kale and crowned with a poached egg – the accompanying toast soaked up the juices and bits of renegade yolk while the chunks of beets added a fresh earthy edge to the dish.  At least that’s what I’m assuming – my friend didn’t offer to share, she was so busy enjoying her selection.  That was fine, as I was swooning over my roasted mushrooms and garlicky, creamy greens, which had been topped with a rustic sausage link.  A crusty baguette, perched on the edge of the plate was a perfect sponge for the savory sauce that pooled at the bottom of the dish.  We didn’t hear a peep out of our other dining companion as he enjoyed his roasted pork loin, nestled in a mound of custardy polenta.

Maybe it was the sunny Friday afternoon, the great company or the crisp Rose we were drinking; maybe it was the warm welcome or the relief that a great lunch spot wasn’t going away any time soon.  Whatever the reason, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.

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Going to the game? Get some gochujang!

Hot dogs, peanuts, burgers and beer – for some, no game would be complete without them.  If you are heading to Safeco or the Clink, there is another, more international option to be had before you head into the stadium.

Through a happy accident, I discovered Girin Steakhouse and Ssam Bar, a new take on classical Korean cuisine in the Stadium area.  The plan was to meet friends at a well known spot in Pioneer Square.  Getting there early, I looked over the menu and figured one of our party would leave very hungry, what with her loathing of seafood and mushrooms, both of which were in just about every menu item.  We needed a new plan.  Having passed Girin on my way to the original destination, I  grabbed our other friend and headed back from whence I came.  Thankfully, our seafood-hater hadn’t found parking yet (no surprise in Pioneer Square) so the change of venue wasn’t a problem.  I’m so glad we made the switch!

Located on the street level of The Wave apartment building, adjacent to the north parking area of Century Link field, Girin is a beautifully realized restaurant and bar with a modern Asian vibe and amazing food and drink.  Don’t let the front doors get the better of you – they look like large slabs of wood, without obvious hinge or handle.  Run your hand across the middle of the door and you’ll catch an edge that, with a strong tug, admits you to a stone-fountain and plant filled courtyard.  Head left to the bar or right, into the restaurant.

We went to the bar, as our intent was Happy Hour – and in the bar that runs from 4 to 7! (4-6 in the restaurant).  The HH menu is like a greatest hits from the restaurant menu but around half the price.  The staff was really helpful in deciphering the unfamiliar dishes and putting together a good selection of flavors and textures.

Despite the tongue twisting names, plates came out looking like Korean versions of familiar friends.  Love a really rare steak?  Try the yukhwe – super thin, rosy petals of raw beef, scattered with pine nuts and micro greens, topped with a quail egg.  The combination of cool, creamy beef and rich egg yolk made the dish so delicious, we placed a second order.  Like tacos?  Try the ssam – chose your protein and then wrap it in a lettuce leaf with a dab of rice and a smear of spicy condiments.  Are hot wings your thing?  The gochujang wings are crispy, juicy, spicy, sticky and addictive.

Girin prides itself on sourcing the best local meats and produce.  They craft their own condiments, kimchi and are even house fermenting traditional beverages.

I love it when fate steps in and pushes you in a new direction – Girin wasn’t where we thought we were going but, once there, it was the best place to be.  And now you can go there too, on purpose.  Details at http://www.girinseattle.com .

Films for food lovers @ SIFF

For three weeks in the spring, when I’m not at work or sleeping, I’m either standing in line for a movie, sitting watching a movie or on my way to another movie, all courtesy of the juggernaut that is the Seattle International Film Festival.

This year, there is an embarrassment of riches in the food documentary department, a trend that has been ‘brewing’ for years.  As international cuisine, craft everything and concerns about what we eat and how it is made are moving into the mainstream consciousness, filmmakers are taking up their cameras and exploring the topic of food from every angle.

I couldn’t resist a pair of films whose description began with ” a mouthwatering quartet of hour-long culinary chamber pieces …..cooking extraordinarily breathtaking Japanese dishes based on the ingredients of the season”.  That is from the SIFF website, describing the films “Little Forest – Summer/Autumn” and “Little Forest – Winter/Spring”, two films that follow a woman’s culinary journey through the seasons when she returns to her childhood home in the Japanese countryside.

Those are just two of twelve documentaries being shown over the course of the festival.  Want to know about the food truck scene in LA?  Go see “City of Gold”.  Interested in the traditional method of brewing sake?  Check out “The Birth of Sake”.  French cuisine, global dishes, steak, seafood, sugar, sherry – they’re all covered.  And what about the chefs who create all this amazing food?  Get to know Curtis Duffy, Georges Perrier, Sam Rama or Sergio Herman in films that uncover what makes them tick.

Go to siff.net, click on the Festival tab, go to Films A-Z and sort by genre for ‘food’.

Peruse the offerings, grab a ticket or two – maybe I’ll see you in line!