Instant Antidepressant: Baby, it’s cold outside so let’s go out!

Watching the snow falling is one of the beautiful things in the world, but it is not really my favorite thing to do. It makes me feel a bit blue and depressed. I think it’s because I know this peaceful quietness would disappear very soon.

Yesterday, Sunday November 5th 2017, it was a bit snowing and intensely cold for November in Seattle. I love Seattle autumn, but I guess I was not ready for this weather. However it turned into one of the most delightful days.

Here is list of how I make those cold and blues go away.

OXTAIL PHO at BA BAR (http://babarseattle.com)

Classic Vietnamese repertoire, beef noodle soup. Noodle have gotten better now at Ba Bar. It won’t get bundle up and like a giant mochi any more. Broth tastes exactly how I wanted it to taste like. Combination of savoriness, tons of umami, a tat sourness and slight sweetness. Make sure to breathe in the complexity of this noodle soup before digging in. Then, you taste the meat falling off from the bones and noodle at the same time. It warms your belly and heart at the same time.

PIPE & ROW (https://pipeandrow.com) and BURNT SUGAR (https://burntsugar.us)

Strolling stores in cute neighborhood like Fremont is essential especially on a chilly day like this. Looking at those pairs of shoes that cost way more than you can afford but it’s so nice to dream. Someday in Paris 🙂 You can do it yourself but it would be much more fun with your trusted and honest friends who are not afraid of saying, “No, you look ridiculous in that dress” or “You look amazing. You must get that sweater.”

YOUR BESTIES
I don’t call people “friends” very easily. Honestly, I only have several friends whom I gave my respect and the highest regards to. I got to go out and eat pho, drink coffee, shop, talk, make fun of each other and laugh. Most importantly, love. Since I have a few friends, I can easily open up my heart and show who I am when being with them. I show how important and precious they are to me. I share my life, small and big with them. They give me so much hope and strength to keep going. It’s pure happiness. There is no better way to fill your soul.

Dark, rainy and cold days are coming in Seattle soon. However, as long as I have these things, I don’t need to go seek for antidepressants. When your heart is open, depressing days can easily turn into happy days just like I experienced yesterday. That’s instant and long-lasting at the same time.

April 4th 3.0: mkt.

April 4th 3.0: mkt.

Ethan Stowell is beloved, down to earth kind of guy.  He owns 9 restaurants and 1 pizzeria all in Seattle.  He will be opening 3 more this year.  Yes, he is beloved and down to earth kind of guy, but he is also crazy.

He is crazy about food.  He is crazy about connection and relationships between food and people who eat his food.  Most of his restaurants are intimate settings.  Some have community table and some only seat 30 people or so.  Kitchens are not hidden, usually open.  Today is April 4th and it is a special day for me.  Archie was successful not to disclose where he was taking me this last Saturday night until we were almost there.

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Here is mkt.in Meridian neighborhood near Green Lake in Seattle.  When I opened the door, first thing you see is an small and open kitchen with 5-seat counter.  Very close to people sitting next to you.  We were seated right in front of Alvin. Perfect.  I was able to see what he was cooking and how he prepares the meal.  His expression and his voice.  I was feeling his and his crew’s energy flowing through this intimate restaurant.  They use Pacific Northwest Ingredients.  Alvin puts lots of care and just right amount of Jaconsen Salt and care.  American fare without any pretentiousness.  Great balance of boldness and sensitivities.

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My favorite restaurants always have great balance of 3-pillars, chef, service crew, food.   This place has food and chef covered.  OK, service crew.  Awesome.  Seth was our crew who tended to our  table and he was so much fun, cracking jokes, laughing with us, fist-bumping us, and cursing appropriately (yes, we curse a lot).  He is one of those people you actually want to eat dinner and share a bottle of red wine with.

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I am happy to say I found another excellent Seattle eatery that I want to go back many times more.  My April 4th was fulfilled with joy.

60-degree weather:  Il Corvo, Pioneer Square, Seattle

60-degree weather:  Il Corvo, Pioneer Square, Seattle

This place seats 38 people.  You share your table with strangers.  It only opens 4 hours a day from 11am.  It’s jam packed and you feel like canned anchovy.  They only serve 3 kinds of pasta with a few kinds of appetizers. No desserts, no after lunch coffee.  The line gets long at 11:10am.  They have rules how you eat there.  Be in line for a while, order at this tiny counter, find your table, bus your table, exit.  You get tempted to find your table first then be in line.  No, you don’t do that here.

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It’s mid 60’s today and sunny in Seattle.  It was just perfect to get out.  My co-worker and I hopped on to the “lunch shuttle” from our office building to Pioneer Square and headed to Il Corvo.  We got there 11:10am and there already was a line.  We waited in about 15 minutes or so and we were out of there by 11:55am.  Inside of the restaurant is rustic and welcoming.  Reclaimed wood tables and old wooden floor and vintage pasta machines as interior décor.  Totally my kind of place.  I had torchiette (short pasta) with house made pancetta, sugar snap peas, and parmesan cheese.  Savory, sweet, slightly tangy, delicious.  Perfect amount as well.

Thanks to the gorgeous weather and my co-worker Yumi to make me get out.  I feel like I had a real quick trip to Italy during my lunch hour.

Not Too Odd (actually quite nice): Oddfellows Cafe + Bar

Not Too Odd (actually quite nice):  Oddfellows Cafe + Bar

Rustic, funky, vintagey, hip and eclectic. All of it.

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This place is one of a few cafes where you want to spend for hours.  One of those places you get immediately comfortable and hanging out with hip crowd.  Oddfellows Café is located inside of Oddfellows building, built in 1908 (my house is built in the same year!).  This café still has original old wooden floors, bricks and windows and offers rustic and environmentally sustainable fare.

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Please sit for hours when you visit here.  You will enjoy music, handcrafted espresso drinks, dishes made with locally sourced ingredients and lots of charm.  This is one of places I proudly can say “very Seattle” – rustic, funky, vintagey, hip and eclectic

Dum Sum in the Evening: 飲茶 Yum Cha

Dum Sum in the Evening:  飲茶 Yum Cha

Silk Road travelers.  They must have traveled under severe and harsh conditions but I can’t stop fantasize about the time period.  Transporting silks, gold, precious stones, fabrics, animal skins, exotic fruit on the back of camels…

飲茶: 飲=drink  茶= tea

Dim sum is linked with the old tradition from yum cha (tea tasting).  Silk Road travelers needed a place to rest and teahouses were established along the roadside. Those teahouses offered food and tea…that’s a short history of yum cha.

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Dum sum is traditionally eaten during morning and late afternoon.  In Seattle Chinatown however, Chinese restaurants offer limited dim sum items for dinner as well (thank goodness).  I wanted to eat out but wanted it to be quick and easy.  Dim sum can be the perfect supper.

Dim sum in the evening in Chinatown.  It could be a good place to take your date as well J

Happy Meal: Sunday Brunch at Sitka & Spruce

Happy Meal:  Sunday Brunch at Sitka & Spruce

“A Sunday well spent brings a week of content”  Whoever said this, gets my respect automatically.

My favorite meal is brunch on Sundays.  Not Saturday, not holiday brunch.  It must be Sunday brunch.  My work starts Monday so Sunday is the day I recharge and rejuvenate my body and soul so that I can tackle my insane work week until next Friday evening.  Rejuvenating my body and soul starts with satisfying my tummy.  When I am done with that task, my Sunday is 80% complete.  Therefore, choosing where and what to eat on Sundays is super critical.  Since last Thursday, I had been thinking about spending my couple of hours of Sunday morning, at Sitka & Spruce.

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Sitka & Spruce is one of 5-Matt Dillon’s restaurants, located in Capitol Hill in Seattle.  Melrose Market is combination of restaurant, bar, butcher, furniture store, general store, cheese shop, clothing store, deli, shellfish restaurant/shop, it’s a mini version of Chelsea Market in New York City.  Sitka & Spruce is located inside of this old building that they didn’t tear down.  The space has floor to ceiling windows and concrete floor, it reminds me of old and spacious loft.  We were lucky to be seated at bar by the window.  Bloody Mary, homemade pickles, bread and butter, hot rye porridge, granola, cultured cream & marjoram, baked eggs with smoked brisket, beer braised cabbage & harissa.  I was already giddy being inside of that restaurant anyway and I was overjoyed by looking at the menu.  What Archie and I ate was ridiculous.  If I can show you what happiness looks like, this would be one of them.

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My stomach is warm and satisfied.  Now I look forward to welcoming my new week.  Have a great rest of Sunday, everyone.

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Seattle Food Icon: The Dish (no famous chef required)

Seattle Food Icon: The Dish (no famous chef required)

There is something romantic about eating at a diner, especially at the counter. Drinking a very bad cup of coffee in a very thick unmatched ceramic mug.  The food is greasy and its portion is gigantic so it’s promising that you’ll get a huge gut-bomb even while you are eating.  You can easily find those diners in NYC but there are not many in Seattle.  The Dish is one of only a few and very valuable.

Since I moved to Seattle in 2000, I have been coming here.  It is a small restaurant.  The counter seats 8 people and there are 9 four-top tables.  They only open from 8 am to 2 pm, are closed on Mondays and all national holidays.  If you arrive there after 10 am, you should be ready for waiting. Outside.  Summer in Seattle is gorgeous, so there is no problem waiting outside. But winter?  Wet and cold…but the line does not get shorter.  Of course, there is bottom-less coffee with unmatched ceramic mugs while waiting.  You sometimes have to go to the bathroom twice before you get seated.  People in Seattle adore this place despite these inconvenient factors.

The menu is not that original, regular American.  Lots of eggs, starch and meat.  Not a lot of gluten-free or vegan options but this place attract people.  98% of Seattle population either knows about this place or has been there, I bet you.  Nobody will judge you if you dine there alone.  It’s actually quite comfortable place to do so.  It has lots of sunlight so it’s nice to eat there when the weather is nice.  It’s equally good to dine there on rainy Sunday’s as well.

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Their food is good, it doesn’t necessarily wow you.  But I repeatedly go there because of the charm, consistency, nostalgia, comfort and romance that this place offers.  The Dish will remind you of your grandma.  It’s like eating your breakfast in her 50’s kitchen with a bunch of other people.

Sixty Four Minutes of Patience Takes You to…Amsterdam: Arabica Lounge

Sixty Four Minutes of Patience Takes You to…Amsterdam: Arabica Lounge

1. It is a long line to order your food and drink.

2. It takes a long time until your food comes out.

3. Staffs are not so  attentive.

If you do not like these facts of restaurants or cafes, you would not like to keep reading this post because this place I write about today does have a long line to order, they take a long time to prepare your food and the staff are not super attentive.

I love Capitol Hill in Seattle.  It’s weird and not-so-clean, but it offers a lot of character and feels welcoming for some reason.  I came to Seattle for the first time to study English and lived at a dorm at Seattle University.  It was located (still is) on 12th and James, and I used to walk to Broadway to check out  funky small shops and do some human watching (there were LOTS of “interesting” people back then).  Capitol Hill has gone through numerous changes and people say it is not the same Capitol Hill anymore, but this place still attracts me and I notice I feel nostalgia every time I go there.

Arabica Lounge is located at the corner of East Olive Way and Denny.  Many of the old buildings (I love old architecture!) still remain around there instead of being replaced by these ugly new apartment (cheap materials and ugly…ugly!) buildings with no character nor the care.  This place is located in one of those old buildings with big windows and lots of sunlight.  If you are like me, as soon as  you enter this café, you feel like you are transported to somewhere in Europe.  Maybe like Amsterdam.  People working there and people drinking, eating, chatting, reading, laptop-ing, iPhone-ing or just being are all beautiful people.  I am not saying they all look like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  What I mean is that they have their own style.  Some are hip, some are cool, some are groovy, some are rad, some are indie and some are just not.  They just look comfortable in their own skin.  This space a good level of intimacy but in the meantime you can still be alone with other people there if that makes sense.  I feel most comfortable at this kind of places.  They offer simple yet delicious food, well prepared drinks (traditional French bowl with Stumptown beans!  Oh MY!) and good music.  I wish I had a living room like that space.

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Arabica lounge is the best place to be yourself and alone with someone.  It is a place to connect with people who are exactly like you, who want to be themselves and are comfortable in their own skin without exchange of words.  You’ll want to bring 2 or 3 books when you go there.  Trust me, you want to easily stay there half a day but please be careful who you go with.  Go there by yourself or with someone who is like you.  I went there with Archie and this one friend who was sort of cranky that day.  While I was enjoying the time waiting for my food, he mentioned how long we had been waiting (it was 64 min actually but it did not feel like that long) and you don’t actually need to know that kind of information at Arabica Lounge.  This is where you go without your watch.

Bring no watch.  Bring your books, notebook and your favorite pen.  64-minute wait is totally worth of your time.

Buddies: Anthony Bourdain and I

Buddies:  Anthony Bourdain and I

I feel like Anthony Bourdain and I know each other. At personal level.  After watching his shows millions of times, when he says, “this is delicious,” I can actually tell if he means it or not.  I actually understand how happy he is when he is slurping his noodle bowl at this tiny street vender in Saigon.  I do because I love slurping noodles and I can taste them when I watch his show.  He and I should start traveling all over the world together to eat, eat and eat, especially Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia…beautiful Southeast Asia.

Ba Bar.  http://babarseattle.com/  This is a Vietnamese restaurant with a French influenced bakery shop.  This place is not your regular  joint so you can’t have 6-dollar pho here.  But they use happy cows and do not use any MSG.  Store design and interior are very well thought out.  It almost looks like the club or bar where hipsters go to inside.  Wait staffs are actually pretty hip as well.  Don’t get fooled by it however.  They serve fragrant, satisfying and deeply comforting pho so you don’t want to leave any drop in your bowl after eating it.  They are legit.  Again, this bowl costs you 4 more dollars than regular pho, but you will not regret paying the 4 dollars extra.

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I am day dreaming about Anthony Bourdain coming to Seattle and me taking him to Ba Bar to slurp Pho Bo Tai Nam together.  I am certain that I can get his genuine “oh, this is delicious!” out of him.

To Be or Not To Be: Red Cow Has an Answer

To Be or Not To Be: Red Cow Has an Answer

To be or not to be a meat eater, that is the question.  Right?  I was vegan for a while and was pescetarian until October 2014.  I was vegan when living in Atlanta, which I was eating vegetables, fruits and grains.  When I moved back to Seattle in 2008, I just added seafood to my vegan diet. But I was vegan and pescetarian not because of animal cruelty, wanting to reduce CO2 emissions or wanting to save the world eventually or anything like that.  My body got used to vegan diet for a while so every time I tried to eat meat products, I didn’t feel well afterwards so I just avoided for a long time.

In October 2014, I traveled to Paris with Archie, my best friend.  The trip turned my world upside down.  I wanted to taste EVERYTHING that Paris had to offer.  Beef bourguignon, beef tartar, pork rillettes, lamb, quail, baguette and butter (of course, French cuisine is not complete butter!)  My stomach felt a little funky at first but slowly I have gotten used to eating meat.

So, this is one of Seattle’s be-loved chefs, Ethan Stowell’s 9th restaurant called Red Cow.  It is located in this quaint Madrona area in Seattle near Lake Washington.  They change menu seasonally, which I respect and admire so much.

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http://www.ethanstowellrestaurants.com/locations/red-cow/

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We shared smoked duck breast, beef tongue, pork rillettes as charcuterie plate and the plate was more than excellent.  They had so much flavor and melted in my mouth.  Smoked meat can be tricky sometimes but this one was quite tender and had a very unique taste.  They offer 16oz Rib Eye.  Yes, 16oz.  I kind of wanted to try to be honest just to see how ridiculously big that was but I didn’t want my heart to stop next day either so I decide to have 8oz Filet Mignon.  It was superbly prepared (well, for my taste, medium rare) and inside was perfect reddish pink with crunchy fries and lots of homemade butter!  What a divine plate of Steak Frites.

When we were seated, we told our waiter “We are vegans.  What can you do for us?”  “We have tons of lettuce,” he replied.  I like witty and smartass people.  I consider Red Cow is doing something right by offering excellent healthy and well-taken care of animals and hiring experienced smartasses.

Just to mention, if you are vegans, vegetarians, or pescetarians, or whatever diet method you are using, Red Cow is not the place for you.  At all.  But if you are meat-eater, flexitarians (I can’t keep up these names anymore…have you heard kangatarian; vegetarian diet plus occasional kangaroo meat consumption?), you would appreciate this place very much.

To be or not to be…is not a question for me anymore.

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