Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cross Border Road Trip Eats with the Ladies

I went away to Seattle for the weekend with my BCIT ladies to celebrate a 30th birthday. What did we do this weekend? We shopped and we ATE!
We left on the Friday evening and on our way to Tulalip, we decided to stop for dinner. The ladies wanted something classic and very “American”, so I suggested we hit Bob’s Burgers and Brew just over the border, right off the highway, around Bellingham. The place was packed and after a short wait, we were seated at a comfy booth, ordered and devoured our food. Our server was awesome- friendly, polite, enthusiastic, with a little bit of sass….we all agreed that if we lived there, we’d want to be her friend.  
Where's the lettuce?
K and S each ordered the Southwest Chicken Salad (10.99)- Romaine Lettuce with parmesan cheese and southwest dressing. Topped with slices of grilled chicken breast, black beans, corn, chopped tomatoes, red onion and crispy tortilla chips. These ladies were impressed with their meals- they marvelled at the overflowing salad plate, and were pleasantly surprised at all of the fresh ingredients – especially the corn. They both ordered dressing on the side, and although it looked a little sketchy, they both were surprised at how much they both liked the sweet, subtle flavour.
B fell in love with the menu description of the Stuffed Spud (13.99) and when it came out, it didn’t disappoint. It was a huge Washington grown bakers potato stuffed with swiss cheese, sautéed onions and hot grilled ham. Topped off with butter, real bacon, sour cream and chives. This massive meal also came with bread and a salad.
 T got a Classic 6oz Broiled Burger (8.99). This is Bob’s basic burger and T thought it was great: juicy, flavourful, it exceeded her expectations and she thought the fries were nice and crisp too. JB and I both got the Fresh Mushroom Burger (9.99), a 6oz juicy beef patty covered with cheese and smothered with a gargantuan amount of hot sautéed mushrooms on a bed of lettuce with sliced tomato, pickles, and savoury sauce.  The sautéed mushrooms were absolutely amazing,piled high on the bun, packed full of meaty, buttery, rich flavour. Thumbs up for giant portions of simple, classic, tasty, American comfort food.

The next morning our Holiday Inn provided a continental breakfast. It was pretty standard- 3 cereals, instant oatmeal, token pastries and muffins, toast and bagels, yogurt, coffee and juice- but for me, the bar has now been raised for all continental breakfasts with a MAKE YOUR OWN WAFFLE STATION (waffle batter and cast iron waffle iron). This was stellar and a great culinary start to the day. I topped mine with sliced banana, peanut butter, and a light maple syrup drizzle. B customized hers with a jam and cream cheese topping for a cheesecake style waffle.
The rest of the girls hit Nordstorm Café at Northgate Mall for a late lunch. I didn’t partake in this meal, but I’ve had lunch here in the past and loved it, in particular their tomato basil soup and Bistro Club Sandwich- sliced chicken breast, crisp bacon, tomato, avocado and French green beans with garlic aioli on toasted rustic bread.
The birthday girl got to late dinner spot and she had her heart set on PF Chang’s.  This place was like American-style Aasian fusion Earls/Cactus Club/Joey’s. We had a short wait at the upper bar area- service was fantastic and I enjoyed the bartender’s recommendation of Mac and Jack’s, a locally brewed beer. My first impression wasn’t that great- our service was kind of cranky and the strong smell of Lush cosmetics was impacting my taste buds (we were seated near the front of house and the restaurant was in a mall). Our server mixed up delicious dipping and hot sauces and warmed up a bit, was very helpful in helping JB order around her food allergies. The food came and it was good, but not great. Pretty much your basic Americanized Chinese food: saucy, without a real strong flavour.
For me, the stand-outs were the Chang’s Chicken/Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps- quickly cooked chicken/tofu with cool lettuce cups, and the stir-fried eggplant tossed with scallions in a savoury chili pepper sauce, the banana spring roll- warm, crispy bites with coconut-pineapple ice cream and drizzled with caramel and vanilla sauces- AND the plastic dessert models that our server brought out to show us what the desserts looked like.
The next morning, we took a stroll to Pike Place Market. I love Pike Place….the area is foodie paradise with soooo many amazing coffee shops, the crazy fish mongers, the aggressive produce vendors dishing out samples with sass, bakeries (Le Panier), ethnic foods (piroshkis), cheese shops (beecher’s), and much more.
My fantastic friend, Heather is a travel and food encyclopedia and for a previous trip she had recommended Etta’s for a proper “market brunch.” I saw its awning and large giant plate glass window that looks across to the bustle of Pike Place and the Seattle waterfront. The atmosphere is classy, yet laid back. Service was a little slow, but we all though our extremely earnest and knowlegible server was  fantastic from start to finish. He really impressed us by acknowledging any kind of delay or problem and being extremely apologetic, and being really friendly and nice.
K and S ordered house made granola, fresh fruit, willapa hills yogurt  12- they let me have a spoonful and the yogurt was out-of-this-world thick and creamy.
T, B and JB ordered etta's breakfast: two farm eggs, chicken sausage or bacon, home fries and artisan toast 14- I tried the hashbrowns (crispy, well-seasoned and delicious) the bacon (crispy, well-seasoned and delicious), and although I was eying JB’s chicken sausage, I didn’t want to interrupt because she was really enjoying it.

I ordered the Daily Special: Pozole- a tomato based mexican soup with braised pork butt, hominy (a type of corn), shredded cabbage and cilantro, topped with two poached eggs and shredded tortilla 14- This was a fantastic dish in terms of flavour, texture, and quality ingredients. The meat was tender and falling apart, the broth was rich and velvety, the hominy gave the dish an earthiness, the crunch of the fresh veg was a nice touch, and when the yolk from the eggs started oozing all over the other ingredients….well, it was a thing of beauty. Simple, yet complex, and all over delicious.
Other memorable food moments included trips to Albertson’s (Old Fashioned Glazed Donuts) and Walmart (Mammoth Cheez Balls and other atrocities).

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