April 2012

From this Issue

If you took a culinary snapshot of 2012, what would it taste like? Beyond the strong locavore focus and the eager seasonality of menus, Seattle restaurants have a unique spirit, a feel all their own. We celebrate this special Seattle flavor by calling out the restaurants that define our city—and the trends they exemplify.

A puny dish of sodden calamari, a sad plate of flabby, lukewarm wings, a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon—it’s the dreaded not-so-happy hour, wherein a restaurant offers you “bargains” like these if you get there early enough. That’s just not going to cut it.

Who keeps Seattle’s food engines running? Who has the power, the respect and the influence to set trends, challenge the status quo and reshape the culinary landscape? We sussed out the people and institutions who have had—and continue to have—the most substantial impact on how we eat, what we eat and what we'll want to eat in the future.

Bryn Lumsden
Rob Roy, Belltown

Sun Liquor Distillery
Capitol Hill

Today, the term “happy hour” is ingrained in communal cocktail thought, but its origins are unclear. Although a few facts are available, it’s fairly difficult to pin down the definitive history of how those two words first came together. In the 1920s, the phrase “happy hour” was used by the Navy for a period of scheduled athletic activity or other entertainment.

Best Sweet/Dessert

Three things are very important when we produce our Best Restaurants issue: 1) The story must reflect how we dine out locally now, (oh, how fun it would have been to cover the 50s and 60s eras of wedge salads and fancy Jell-O desserts!); 2) it must include a mix of affordable and fine dining experiences; and 3) this one will seem obvious, but it’s trickier than you think when t

Reynvaan Family Vineyards 2009 Unnamed Syrah
Walla Walla Valley, $55

The local trend toward Belgian-style beers shows no sign of slowing; however, local beer drinkers are not willing to entirely abandon their big, hoppy Northwestern-style favorites just yet.

Washington state’s spirited landscape is changing rapidly, as both new and well-established distilleries introduce a wide array of intriguing imbibables.

Most Seattleites walk or drive past the Space Needle and the other major buildings at Seattle Center without giving much thought to who designed them. But these structures, including KeyArena and the Pacific Science Center, are the lasting architectural legacy of the Century 21 Exposition, better known as the Seattle World’s Fair.

The Seattle “Century 21” World’s Fair of ’62 was about science, but what folks remembered was the food. The populist hit? Belgian waffles, first introduced to America at Century 21. Seattle loves its breakfast comfort foods (remember Dutch babies? Fisher scones?) and the thick, airy waffles, piled with strawberries and whipped cream, became a top attraction.

On April 21, 1962, visitors from close by and around the world streamed through the gates of the Seattle World’s Fair to witness a future they’d never before imagined. It seemed that soon we’d all live in Plywood Homes of Living Light, commute by monorail and dine at revolving restaurants in various Space Needles piercing the sky.

The phrase “food court” doesn’t exactly inspire visions of culinary promise and satisfaction. Over the last few months, Seattle Center has embarked on a mission to eventually disassociate the food offerings at the Seattle Center hub, the Center House, from the image of a few bland McChoices drowned in florescent lighting.

I am a bit of a purist about croissants. I want to revel in the warm glow of the sweet butter softly nestled in each tender layer. I want to brush burnished crumbs from my lap. I want to pull the end and have the croissant roll and twist in my fingers.

The little space that began as a doughnut shop, then became Matt Dillon’s legendary Sitka & Spruce (which has since moved to the Melrose Market) and was later home to the sadly short-lived Nettletown, has a promising new tennant.

The early word? Phenomenal. Soaring reviews appeared in The Seattle Times and The Stranger a short couple of months after Altura opened in October. But early hype gives me pause; living up to panting accolades is always challenging, particularly for a kitchen that’s still getting its footing.

The cutest pie shop in town? That’s easy. It’s A la Mode’s pocket-size corner space across from the zoo on Phinney Ridge, where bar stools invite friends to belly up for a slice of Mexican chocolate pie, mousse-like in texture, topped with a cloud of whipped cream and scented with just a whisper of cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

Tucked away just west of our famous market, the Pike Street Hillclimb, located on Western Avenue along the sprawling staircase that leads to Alaskan Way, features dining, shopping and local art.

Donald Byrd is staging an intervention. Seattle’s renowned contemporary dance choreographer is unsettled by America’s craving for the “mythologized,” candy-coated version of love portrayed in popular movies (see: the re-release of Titanic in 3-D this month) and he wants to help curb our addiction.

In 2000, then graphic designer Luly Yang entered a fashion show on a whim, crafting an exquisite butterfly dress entirely out of paper. The awed—and awesome—reception to the gown soon inspired a career change.

Seattle’s Outdoor Research, which just turned the ripe old age of 30, is blazing new trails with the introduction of the 13.5-ounce Axiom jacket ($375), the company’s first shell that uses Gore-Tex’s most breathable and waterproof stretch fabric, Active Shell.

Imagine receiving a telephone call from your child’s teacher asking you about your family’s academic goals and how you can work together to achieve them. It’s happening in areas of Seattle as part of an innovative new strategy to turn around a troubling trend among local schoolchildren.

I pity the poor souls who’ve never tasted one of Autumn Martin’s decadent molten chocolate cakes-in-a-jar, baked to an oozy middle and deeply, darkly delicious.

What it is: Known to the Chinese as “hua jiao,” this numbing yet addictive spice zings taste buds with its slightly lemony flavor in many popular Szechuan dishes, including Grandma’s Pockmarked Tofu (or “ma po dou fu”). These small, dark brown pods are normally sold whole, then toasted and ground at home before being used in the kitchen. 

Although Art Stone launched his new company, Honest Biscuits, last October, he traces its roots to his boyhood in North Carolina, where he used to help his grandmother make traditional Southern biscuits. After moving to Seattle last year, Stone turned his childhood memories into a business, selling fresh biscuits at farmers markets.

WHERE: Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon.

Imagine you’re this close to missing your flight at Sea-Tac Airport, the family floundering in front of you has apparently never been through security before, and your departure has just been moved out to the N gates. From somewhere overhead, you hear the voice of a local rapper saying, “Hi. I’m Macklemore.

What image does the phrase “forces of nature” bring to mind? A tornado? Crashing waves? An apple falling on Isaac Newton’s head?

What is the telltale sign of a Tudor? Outside, look for a steeply pitched roof, which gives a triangular aspect to the face of the house. Sometimes a double peak is employed, above a curved entryway. A decorative technique known as “false half-timbering” harks back to medieval building methods and is responsible for the distinctive vertical brown stripes on the exterior.

They’re the perfect foil for pastel-colored nursery walls: hip linoleum-block prints inspired by vintage French pop art, made by West Seattle–based artist Jennifer Ament.

If you enjoy dressing your baby in hats with little ears, the newest pants from sweet tot line Hoot Organic (by Seattle dress designer Suzy Fairchild) will have you oooh-ooohing with delight: The Monkey Bum Pants are made of 100 percent organic cotton and feature a contrasting diaper-bum gusset for a nonbinding fit—perfect for those epic crawli

“Have you seen Wayne’s World?” asks Amy Pennington, host of the new local restaurant review show Check, Please! Northwest on KCTS-TV. “I constantly think: ‘Camera 1, Camera 2.’ I’m a total fish out of water.”

Both your grown-up and childlike sides will appreciate downtown-based Red Leaf’s Fragrant Bubble Bath Dough (shown above), come bath time. Made with almond oil and moisturizing glycerin, the shapable, Play-Doh-like scrub ($12) dissolves into soft bubbles under the faucet.

It is time to come to grips with the inevitable: saying goodbye to that ratty “Frankie Says Relax” T-shirt you wear when running errands and hello to designer Amanda Boyd’s stylish Sandmaiden line of lounge wear.

For die-hard thrifters, finding a vintage dress that seems tailored for your 1940s alter ego is a thrill in itself, but sometimes the real thrill is finding the shop it’s hanging in, especially when there’s little more than a handwritten sign to mark its stealthy locale.

You might not have picked 1890s Germany as the setting of choice for a bold coming-of-age story, but the rock musical Spring Awakening may have changed that forever. Winner of eight 2007 Tony Awards (including Best Musical), the story is based on a banned German play from 1892 and surrounds teenagers discovering the good, the bad and the ugly of all things sexual.

February was a banner month for Seattle civil engineer turned poet Kathleen Flenniken.

Marie McCaffrey
Executive director,