A toast to the end of 2009

A few “drinking establishments” to report on, and then I’m finally caught up on my restaurant posts for most of 2009.

I had a first foray into Tini Bigs (back when Jamie Boudreau was tending bar) and discovered the danger of too many compelling cocktails: A vague memory of what I ingested that evening. I failed to take enough photos – and no chance for taking notes. Lucky, the Tini people gave me a list of what I drank that night:

  • Brandy Smash (Cognac, peach bitters, mint)
  • Chet Baker (Aged rum, Punt e Mes, honey, bitters)
  • Deshler (Rye, Cointreau, Dubonnet, bitters)
  • Diplomat (Dry and sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, rhubarb shrub)
  • Gin-Gin Mule (Gin, house-made ginger beer, mint, soda)

Now, what I do remember is finding the Chet Baker (with its tempered honey) and the Diplomat (with its rhubarb shrub) the most intriguing drinks of the night. And that there were some crabcakes, but that’s based on the one snapshot I took. The food was, well, good enough to sustain further drinking.

While we’re on the subject of martini bars, the deconstructed martini at STIR Martini + Raw Bar is a sight to see. My Seattle Food Geek friend captured the essence of this experience perfectly; it really is like playing with a cocktail-based chemistry set. And I really did feel like a kid, pouring this into that – then standing back in case of any explosions. A fun introduction into the world of mixology.

The space is certainly swanky, but the bottom line for me is the food, and overall I found it uninspiring. Asian-influenced dishes always intrigues me, yet these felt forced and unfilling. A King crab roll was overly sweet, the black rice accompanying coconut vanilla prawns was underseasoned and served with a bland sauce, and the desserts (ice cream tempura and sweet gyoza) were cute but forgettable. The beef udon was okay, but I preferred the lobster bisque, and some ceviche was also worth ordering. I’ve addressed this elsewhere on the blog: I think Japanese are good at cooking Japanese food; other who try consistently fall short. STIR is another place where the drinks outshine the food, though there seem to be some finds if you order selectively.

Still over in Bellevue, just a bit off the beaten path (really, just a bit) is a wine bar that’s serving up some excellent sips and dishes in a contemporary, European atmosphere. Grand Cru Wine Shop & Bar anchors the Ten20 Tower (a luxury apartment complex), and is well worth seeking out.

The menu offers a decent selection of small plates. I like most anything rolled in rice paper, and no exception was the braised rabbit roulade, with fresh herbs and sauteed leeks complimenting the flavor of the rabbit. If you’re noticing three wine glasses in the photo, that’s a clue about the creative wine flights available on the wine list. (That particular trio was called “It’s Good to Be King!”)

Grand Cru is a great place to learn more about wine and enjoy life as an oenophile. The staff is knowledgeable and interested in helping to explain the wine choices. There are VIP memberships that offer great savings, extended happy hours with discounts, and frequent special events. Every Thursday, for example, Grand Cru hosts a drop-in tasting which gets you five wine samples and some bites of food for $15.

Bringing it back to Seattle, let’s finish up with a couple of downtown places: Purple and Post. Purple Cafe and Wine Bar is known to pack in the crowds. It’s got a lot going for it: great location, big chairs (that you’ll sink into and almost be forced to stay in), and a fabulous wine list. Best bet here might be to sit at the bar (the barstools are also heavy – homage to the name of the managing group?) for wine and cheese. Most anything else I’ve had off the food menu has been unremarkable at best. At worst, pork belly that twice has been unbearably dry. Pork belly’s got fat, so there’s just no reason for that.

Post is tucked away in Post Alley at Pike Place Market, next to Kells (same ownership). It’s a cozy place, perfect for the after-work happy hour (or even late night eats, as they’re open until 1am – and 2am on Friday and Saturday nights). During the 4-7pm happy hour, $5 will get you a couple of lamb sliders, some flat bread pizza, or fried zucchini with ranch dipping sauce. My favorite bite was the pepper-crusted Brussels sprouts. (I’m glad to see that this delightful vegetable was just voted ingredient of the year!) As for a beverage: How about the 1914 Bhat, made with Mekong Thai rum, lemon juice, orange and bitters. I say cheers to that!

Tini Bigs Lounge on Urbanspoon

STIR Martini + Raw Bar on Urbanspoon

Grand Cru Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar (Seattle) on Urbanspoon

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar (Kirkland) on Urbanspoon

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar (Woodinville) on Urbanspoon

Post on Urbanspoon



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