Archive for the 'Gastropub' Category

Essex – Seattle

Essex - Ballard - Seattle

To ease the dissapointment of not being able to dine at Willows Inn on Lummi Island during this trip to Seattle, I treated myself to happy hour and two dinners on Saturday night. Not to sound like a complete lush, but nothing makes everything all better quite like a few rounds of cocktails!

We started off the evening at Bathtub Gin, a speakeasy hidden in a downtown alley that came highly recommended to us by our server at The Corson Building. After taking full advantage of their half-off special, we moved on to Essex in Ballard for more adult beverages and a bite to eat.

Essex - Ballard - Seattle

Brandon Pettit, the chef and owner of pizzeria Delancey next door, opened Essex with his wife and business partner, Molly Wizenberg of Orangette, last summer.

“The Delancey Street and Essex Street subway stops in New York share a station, so Essex seemed a fitting name for the restaurant sharing a façade with Delancey,” according to Ms. Orangette.

Essex - Ballard - Seattle

We arrived at the bar before the sun had fully set, so seating was relatively easy. We pulled up two seats at the counter and proceeded to order our “first” round. While my darling Astronomer stuck with the beers on tap, I was in a cocktailing mood.

My salted margarita ($10), sparkling and on tap, was comprised of reposado and a combination of orange, grapefruit, and lime juices. Tequila-based cocktails always treat me right.

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Sunday Roast at The Mall Tavern – London

Sunday Roast at The Mall Tavern - London

While digging into doughnuts at St. John Bakery and Spanish chorizo sandwiches at Borough Market, Su-Lin and I made plans to get together the following day for Sunday roast, a traditional British meal of roasted meats, Yorkshire pudding, vegetables, and gravy. Su-Lin insisted that our feast take place at Notting Hill’s The Mall Tavern, whose Sunday roast is considered to be one of London’s finest.

Sunday Roast at The Mall Tavern - London

While The Mall Tavern has been around since 1856, Chef Jesse Dunford Wood has only been cooking his brand of “beautiful and colourful British food with a sense of humour” since 2010. In addition to roasts, the gastropub serves a seasonally driven menu featuring old school British delights like cow pies and arctic rolls.

Sunday Roast at The Mall Tavern - London

With four people in our party, we decided to order two different roasts and two of the pub’s signature dishes to share. The Roast Beef (£15) platter came with potatoes, heaps of carrots and shredded cabbage, as well as Yorkshire pudding.

The highlight of plate was the perfectly pink roast beef, which arrived thinly sliced and sprinkled with coarse salt. While The Astronomer preferred the meat straight up, I loved it with the chunky horseradish sauce served alongside. The Yankee contingent at the table was stoked to try the Yorkshire pudding, which was airy, hollow, and reminiscent of a popover.

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Birch & Barley – Washington D.C.

Birch & Barley - Washington D.C.

Birch & Barley, a ground-breaking D.C. restaurant dedicated to artisanal beers, was the site of our second dinner in the city. I was a bit nervous about dining here because truth be told, I don’t like beer. Try as I might to embrace the sudsy stuff, beer and I just haven’t grown very tight over the years. In fact, there’s only been one brew in my experience that didn’t elicit a bitter face—La Fin Du Monde, a champagne-like beer from Québec.

Even though I haven’t had the best experiences with beer, I came here with an open mind and a willing palate. This evening, our group indulged in a tasting menu ($55) with beer pairings ($22) orchestrated by Chef Kyle Bailey (Cru, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Allen and Delancey) and beer director Greg Engert. Bread service and sweets were masterfully handled by Chef Tiffany MacIsaac (Cru, Union Square Cafe, Allen and Delancey).

Greg Engert - Birch & Barley Beer Sommelier

Mr. Engert, who was recently named by Food & Wine magazine as Sommelier of the Year, was on hand to expertly guide us through the evening’s libations. He came to our table at the beginning of each course to introduce the beer pairing, telling us about its history, origin, and distinctive qualities. His immense and intense passion came through with each delivery, inspiring me to give every beer a fair shake and to appreciate its craftsmanship. We sampled a lot of beers throughout the course of the night, but it barely made a dent in the 555 artisanal brews (500 in bottles, 50 on tap, five cask-pumped) that Birch & Barley sources.

Birch & Barley - Washington D.C.

Before the official tasting began, a series of light appetizers arrived to amuse our bouches. These were paired with a thoroughly delightful ale brewed with raspberries from Italy called Rubus. The first bite were arrancini, fried risotto balls with peas, prosciutto, mint, and Fontina. The panko crust was just about perfect.

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The Yard – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)


“Always fun to see which chefs actually show up at SaMo Farmers’ Market! Animal, La Cachette, Melisse, and The Yard were first in line,” tweeted @DanCoxPR early Wednesday morning. With plans to attend a media dinner at The Yard later that evening, I was stoked to hear that Chef Chris Jacobson was prepping for the event with fresh and seasonal ingredients.


Chef Jacobson, better known as CJ from season 3 of Bravo’s Top Chef, came on board as The Yard’s executive chef this past October. Since his arrival, market-driven ingredients have guided the restaurant’s menu at every turn. With items like persimmons, burrata, and pig’s ears on the bill of fare, it’s clear that The Yard isn’t your average Santa Monica watering hole. I am admittedly more of an eater than a drinker, so I have a soft spot for gastropubs that put as much emphasis on the “gastro” menu as the “pub” one.


When The Astronomer and I arrived at The Yard around half past seven, the room was comfortably packed. After scoping out the scene at the bar, we quickly joined our party. Whereas most of the media events that I attend are comprised mostly of blogger-types, this one was an interesting mix of traditional print journalists and those in new media. One of my table mates, a loyal member of the old guard, informed me during our conversation that bloggers were killing newspapers. Let’s just say things got a little strange when I informed her that I was one of those evil bloggers. Oh, awkward!


Before dinner officially started, The Astronomer and I sipped on two of The Yard’s holiday specialty cocktails. For him, a Whiskey Winter (honey, lemon juice, egg whites, bourbon, with vanilla and burnt orange garnish) and for her, a Hendrix Mistletoe Fizz (mint, lime juice, pomegranate, sugar, gin, egg whites with mint sprig and fresh pomegranate seeds). Both are priced at $10.


The first course was comprised of sliced Cinnamon persimmons with burrata, pomegranate, smoked almonds, balsamic, and basil ($10). The plate contained a myriad of different flavors and textures that I wasn’t sure would gel, but eaten all together, it all meshed in a very tasty way. The only glitch of the dish was that the persimmons weren’t peeled, so the finish wasn’t as smooth as it could’ve been.


Next, we dug into a plate of fried pig ears with bacon, dates, and St. Pete’s blue cheese ($8). Based on the looks on everyone’s faces and the amount of food left uneaten, it was clear that The Astronomer and I were the table’s biggest fried pig ears fans. Blue cheese, bacon, and dates are a classic combination, throw into the mix some chewy pig ears, and something kind of magical happens.


The final savory course of the evening was a unique interpretation of shrimp n’ grits ($12). The shrimp were tender, while the grits were rich and creamy. To put a unique spin on this classic Southern dish, the Chef added a spicy kale salad and an ultra-sweet mixture of maple syrup, walnuts, and pancetta. I was digging the Sriracha-infused kale, but the chunks of maple-coated walnuts were much too sweet. A little more restraint would’ve made this dish a winner.


Finally, we were treated to an impromptu dessert that the Chef invented on the fly—chocolate bread pudding with spicy caramel mole sauce and pepitas. With distinct notes of chocolate, coffee, and chili, the thick and slightly savory mole tasted fantastic with the light chocolate cake. The dessert was an apt conclusion to one of the more interesting meals I’ve eaten in a while.

Thank you, Chef, for bringing pig ears to the beach.

The Yard *CLOSED*
119 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: 310-395-6037

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