Thursday, November 29, 2012

Off the Map: Pour One for the Homie

Rice Bowl -- Revel, Seattle, WA

Of all of the Seattle Best Thing I Ever Ate places that Vodka perused on our exclusive culinary resource (Yelp), she found the looks of Revel's dishes by far the most appealing.  Loaded down with carbs and sides of soy sauce, she expected Revel to be a virtual lovefest of deliciousness.

Really Now -- Doesn't That LOOK Like a Great Idea?
Would Revel ever be able to live up to the expectations produced by the foodie masterminds on Yelp?  Well....
Never Trust Anything You Read on the Internet (...)
When Vodka and Chianti arrive at the place, we cozy up to the bar, a placement that we feel is ideal because a) we will have an entertaining view of the kitchen, and b) closer to the bar, closer to the booze, right?


Unless This Is Filled With Vodka, This Ain't Gonna Cut It
It takes a full 9 minutes for our waiter to even arrive for our drink order, and another 11 for our Laura Palmer and Lufthansa Heist to appear before us (yes -- we timed it.  The delay was THAT severe).  
Overarching Opinion on the Cocktails?  Meh
Apparently, alcoholic-based impatience causes Vodka to murmur her new favorite catchphrase ("Homie don't care"—except in this case, she clearly DID care) in a Tourettes-like fashion, and by the time we are finally able to take the first sips of our cocktails, she is decidedly disgruntled.
And If Chianti Knows Anything, It Is That Things Do Not Go Well When Vodka Becomes Disgruntled
This endless wait for our beverages has given us ample time, however, to decide on our upcoming food intake.  
Hey Kitchen - You Got Any Free Samples Over There?
And being that we have subsisted only on second rate hash and squares of chocolate all day, we are predictably ravenous.  While we are here to taste the rice bowl, as featured by Frank Bruni on the MESSY episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate (in truth, he featured the ASPARAGUS rice bowl, but Seattle and their stupid "seasonal eating" movement has stricken said asparagus from the menu), we also ask for a plethora of other dishes to tide us over.
Soooo... Revel Also Grows Its Own Grass....
First comes the garlic shrimp, chermoula, and white bean pancake, which perhaps because it arrives first (and thus when we are at our hungriest), proves to be the best dish of the night.  
Probably Not Due to the Fact That It's FRIED Or Anything....
Fried to a mild brown on the outside and crumbly with shrimp on the inside, it is essentially an upscale version of a scallion pancake.  
You Can Just Bring Over a Stack of These, Thanks
When combined with the four dipping sauces that Revel provides (the garlic soy sauce takes top prize in this assortment), it is fairly pleasing.
A Sauce Menagerie
Dip Tasting, OCD-Style
Unfortunately, by the time we taste our next choice -- the smoky mushroom, garlic chive, and sweet miso dumpling -- Vodka is beginning to doubt the veracity of the delectable-looking pictures posted on Yelp.  You see, while these dumplings LOOK appealing, in taste, they are just... odd.  
Um, Don't Think the Spoon There Is Really Gonna Cut It
Green pierogies (we mean, really -- look at the shape) stuffed to the gills with a mashed-up mushroom concoction and sprinkled with nuts), they are also impossible -- IMPOSSIBLE -- to eat in any logical way.  This trouble is not helped by the fact that Revel only provides chopsticks at each of its patrons' places, and how one is supposed to stuff this monster of a dumpling into her mouth using only two measly sticks remains a mystery of physics.
Revel Is Only For Those Gifted in Hand-Eye Coordination
Next up is the dungeness crab, seaweed noodle, creme fraiche, and spicy red curry bowl, which is overwhelming in its number of components.  Chianti laps up the contents of this dish with glee, while Vodka is decidedly less enthused.  
This Emotional Spectrum Is Pretty Much Consistent Throughout Our Entire Friendship, Actually
While the noodles themselves are pretty much perfect, they are so overwhelmed by the other ingredients that it is almost difficult to find them.  
Hey Revel - Noodles Are Vodka's FAVORITE FOOD. Don't Hide Them, Please
But fine -- no big deal, right?  These other dishes are not the reason we're here, and when our rice bowl laden down with salt and pepper grilled shitake, rapini, and turnip confit is placed before us, Vodka has only one thing to say:

"Ugh, I HATE broccoli rabe."

This dish is not off to a fortuitous start.

So Much Rabe, So Little Rice
Now, while messy dishes are decidedly not our thing, it soon becomes apparent that if Revel would just serve this concoction in a BIGGER BOWL, there would be no need for it to be messy at all.  
Does Seattle Have Some Kind of Issue With Appropriately-Sized Plates?!
As it stands, the combination of the sticky rice and overflowing ingredients makes the dish difficult to mix, and the one measly egg yolk that has been placed on top of the heap is hardly enough to penetrate the deepest crevices of the bowl.  Holding as much as we can between our chopsticks, we take our first bites...

...and taste black pepper.

Amazing We Can Taste Anything Over All That Rabe
Lots and lots of pepper.  So much pepper that even the broccoli rabe seems more palatable in comparison.  As we try to make our way deeper into the bowl, the preponderance of pepper never dissipates, and if anything, the whole thing only gets worse.  
Anyone Know the Number of a Good Chinese Take-Out Place?
Besides being completely devoid of any flavor except black pepper, this rice bowl is also in desperate need of some sauce, as it is so dry that it is all we can do not to dump the remainders of our four dipping sauces into the bowl.
In Need of At Least 84 More Egg Yolks
Lest you fear that we are just too full from the rest of our evening's eating to properly enjoy the rice bowl, when we escort all of our leftovers to Chianti's apartment and consume them the next day, the rice bowl is, if anything, even worse.  
PS We Finally Unearthed the Rest of the Noodles From Their Preponderance of Accessories
Even drier and more peppery, it is only refraining from one-star status because perhaps, just perhaps, the asparagus version is one-hundred times better.  But if it is, Vodka will never know, as she has no intention of returning to Revel ever again.  Because you know what?  Homie don't care.

Revel's Rice Bowl: 2 stars

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Off the Map: Everything's Better Than That Thing

Coconut Gold Bar -- Fran's Chocolates, Seattle, WA
Fran's Chocolates

It is a well-established fact on this blog that we are not fond of coconut.  

Guess What? It's Back
Unfortunately for us, the folks at Food Network seem to believe it is one of the seven wonders of the world.  At least, this is what we assume when, out of all of the delicacies from Fran's Chocolates that Bobby Flay could have chosen to feature on the SEASON'S EATING episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, he picked the coconut gold bars.

Really, Bobby?

All of This And You Pick... Coconut?!
In fact, it appears as though Bobby Flay has already gained some sort of reputation among the gourmands (or not) of Seattle, as the moment Vodka tells her friend, Chianti, that Bobby is the reason we are meandering around the pristine glass-enclosed chocolates of Fran's, she responds, "Oh, he's a goof."
Of Course, This Is Coming from the Girl Who Thinks There's Pork in Sorbet, So Rank Her Opinion Appropriately
Within seconds of walking into Fran's, whose interior is a cross between a jewelry store and a coffee shop, we are offered a free milk chocolate square, which we are instantly in love with (and not only because it is free).
Could We Have a Dozen More Free Samples Please? We're Just Performing Some Quality Control
We are almost tempted to say that Fran's has some of the best chocolate we have ever tasted -- smooth and full-flavored and just sweet enough, it is downright perfect.

And then we come to the coconut gold bar.
Cue the Ominous Music
Now, Vodka might not be a big fan of coconut, but Chianti has no such reservations about the stuff, so she should make for a more impartial judge, right?
A State of Being From Which Vodka Is Not Suffering
Unfurling the (gold, naturally) wrapper, we find a high-end version of an Almond Joy -- a thick layer of creamy coconut topped by three almonds and dipped in a thin layer of dark chocolate.
Almond Joys Have Nuts, Mounds Don't, High Roller Edition
Taking our first bites, we find it... fine.  It's fine.  The bar is not overly coconut-y, which is a plus, but it is also not overly... much of anything.  The almonds don't manage to add much to the proceedings, and the dark chocolate, while tasty, is almost a moot point.
We Meet Again, Our Nemesis
Never a Good Sign When An Item Would Taste Better Without Its Namesake Ingredient
In contrast, the other delicacies that we taste at Fran's are downright delectable, including the hazelnut diamond and (especially) the salted caramels.
This Only Cost, Oh, $77 (Apprximate)
Hazelnut Latte, Chocolate Version
The salted caramels are so delicious, in fact, that Vodka buys a box to take home to her parents (who polish the thing off in less than a day -- really, they're THAT good).
It's Also a Long-Established Fact That Salt Makes Everything Better
In any case, Fran's Chocolates is indeed an amazing find, and it even features one of the best things we have ever eaten.  But in what is becoming a running theme, said "thing" is NOT made with coconut.

Fran's Chocolates's Coconut Gold Bar: 3 stars

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Off the Map: How to Make $8 Seem Overpriced, Seattle Edition

$6 Breakfast Happy Hour -- Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge, Seattle, WA
Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge

The first thing you need to know about Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge in Seattle is that their breakfast happy hour does NOT, contrary to popular (read: Food Network) belief, cost $6.

It costs $8.

Highway robbery, Toulouse.  Way to let your Best Thing I Ever Ate "fame" go to your head.

What Is This -- 50 Cents Per Item on the Plate?!
Indeed, it seems as though once Melissa D'Arabian featured the restaurant on the BANG FOR THE BUCK episode of the program, Toulouse Petit decided to get their two-dollars-worth out of their newfound customers.
"Scenic," Except for, Well, ALL the Wires
And as two such customers, Vodka and her Seattle-based friend, Chianti, stumble into the place awash in giggles at their own idiocy.  You see, we have just come from an epic battle with the city's self-parking machines, during which Chianti pulled up to not one, not two, but THREE different parking spots, got out of the car... and discovered that the parking meter "wasn't working."

Needless to say, said meters were working.  We just didn't know how to use them.
And Being That It's 9am, We Can't Even Blame Our Usual Scapegoat
Anyway, it is in this moronic frame of mind that we enter Toulouse and are seated at an enormous corner booth, a happenstance that makes us quite pleased.
We Like an Unobstructed View of Our Minions
Unfortunately, these feelings of contentedness dissipate the moment we are made aware of this price gouging on this happy hour.
PS Toulouse -- We Never Feel Guilty for Day-Drinking
Ordering a French Press coffee (which, unlike last time Vodka came into contact with such a machine, she now knows how to use) to share, we set about choosing our breakfast dishes.
All These New-Fangled Contraptions Nowadays....
Chianti goes for the eggs florentine with arugula and tomatoes, and Vodka picks the cured pork cheeks confit hash (but only because it was the one Melissa D'Arabian recommended on Best Thing I Ever Ate).
They Like Their Eggs Poached in Seattle...
...Needless to Say, Ginger Would Hate It Here
After the waitress asks which of the 97 egg varieties Vodka would like on the hash, our plates arrive and look... okay.  Admittedly, the plates seem a bit large for the portions (or else, the portions are just made smaller for the "cheapskate" diners).
Here's a Hint: Don't Serve Skimpy Portions on a Serving Platter
Vodka's plate features bite-size pieces of pork, potato, and various other vegetables, all topped by the two eggs, which she quickly pierces with her fork.
Close-Up to Counteract the Fun-Size Plates
Trying to spread the (rather skimpy) yolk across the plate, she takes her first bite.

"How is it?" Chianti asks.

"It needs flavor," Vodka responds without affect.  Confirming through a few more forkfuls that the dish is entirely devoid of seasoning, Vodka begins piling on the salt and pepper.
Guess What? Still Dull
When even her favorite "condiments" don't result in anything more than a tasteless plate, she begins dumping on -- get this -- hot sauce.  HOT SAUCE!  We don't use hot sauce!  We have weak spice palates!  Clearly, this is a dire situation.
Hey Toulouse -- Next Time, How About a Bottle of Ketchup?
Chianti is similarly underwhelmed, if a tad less hostile, about her eggs florentine, and by the end of the meal, half of our food remains on the gargantuan plates, despite the relatively meager portions.
How Much Tomato Did you Spare There? An Eighth of One?
Even $8 seems too much to spend for these breakfast platters, and we leave with absolutely no desire to return to Toulouse Petit again.  Of course, if the happy hour had still cost $6, we might have been willing to give them a second chance.  Inflation, Toulouse, is not your friend

And neither, it seems, is hot sauce.

Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge's $6 Breakfast Happy Hour: 2 stars