I knew about Salumi before my thousands of readers told me to go there when I went to Seattle. I knew it because of Mario, because of “Heat” and because, well, because I just knew about it. From the moment I started blogging my Seattle trip my readers have pressed me in the comments: “Did you go to Salumi?” “I hope you went to Salumi!” “I won’t get my heart transplant if you didn’t go to Salumi!” And so this post will finally answer that question. (The picture above and post title kind of give it away). But first…
More coffee! Specifically, coffee at Vivace:
We went there on the morning before we left because Craig had a meeting. Here we are ordering our coffee:
And here’s my cappuccino:
And now for the most scandalous thing I will ever write about Seattle. (Craig may break up with me over this.) I liked my coffee at Vivace. I liked my coffee at Victrola. Did I like it more than the coffee at my favorite coffee shop in New York? (Tense silence. The Amateur Gourmet shakes his head back and forth. The audience gasps.) I’ll leave it at that.
**NO NO, YOU CAN’T LEAVE IT AT THAT. EXPLAIN YOURSELF!**
Fine! Now maybe it was a fluke, maybe it was an off day for both coffee shops, but I thought my drinks were too milky and that the espresso wasn’t particularly potent. The latte at Joe in New York, however, has wonderfully potent espresso and the same pretty designs with the milk. Ironically, most of the baristas at Joe come from Seattle. Also ironically, I told this assessment to two people working at Joe the other day and they seemed more pissed than happy. So Seattle coffee loyalty is a real thing and that’s all I’m going to say.
We went to Salumi for lunch. It was difficult to find. It was also raining. Here’s a picture on our way in:
And here’s the line once we were inside:
The place, as you can see, is small and narrow. A guy eating a sandwich by the door yelled at me to shut it. As we worked our way down the line I had a chance to study the various sandwich options. I settled on the porchetta:
Craig, on the other hand, chose the meatball sandwich:
As we ordered, a man behind the counter (a young guy, not Armandino (Mario’s father) who was out of town) gave us a taste of dried salami. It had a sharp fennel flavor and it was terrific.
As for the sandwiches, the porchetta was meaty and dense and moist and well flavored. The meatballs, however, were dynamite. At first I mocked Craig’s choice of meatballs at a place known for its cured meats, but later I got confirmation from Ed Levine that Salumi has some of the best meatballs around. I’d love to know their recipe.
Sitting at our table, Craig said he felt like we were in Italy. (Craig spent last January in Italy shooting a movie; he has a crazy story about being on a pig farm in Abruzzo, I think, where there were troughs of innards and intestines and where he saw a pig plucked out of its pen for a scene where it was supposed to be slaughtered–the pig totally flipped out with the knife to its throat–and the director decided that slaughtering the pig wasn’t necessary for the movie, so they put the pig back and it was shaking it was so scared. NOW AREN’T YOU HUNGRY FOR PORCETTA?) My favorite Italian touch was that I ordered a glass of red house wine and they put the entire bottle on the table with an empty glass and told me to pour myself as much as I wanted. Here’s the bottle:
And that was our Salumi experience, an excellent experience, one that I highly recommend.
From there we went to Elliot Bay bookstore again (an awesome bookstore, don’t miss it) and then back to Pike Place market where Craig had his first kumquat:
The woman selling it told us to put it all in your mouth at once and that the peel is sweeter than the inside. At a different stand I bought myself a kiwi dried fruit log:
I enjoyed it. It was like healthy, natural candy.
Across the street from this part of the market was a cheese making shop where we stopped in for curds:
What is a curd?
We sampled one each and they were incredibly fresh and zesty, like extra-salted mozzarella.
Now what is this I see? A new coffee shop, a hip joint where people can go and order $5 blended ice drinks with plastic green straws and buy CDs from Diana Krall and Sheryl Crow? Why it’s the very first Starbucks!
Let’s take a look inside:
And let’s go.
Next door is a place selling Pacific Salmon Jerky. I buy a bag and a week later, back here in my apartment, I open it and taste. Gross! It tastes like shoe leather. My teeth hurt just thinking about it. And then Craig and Diana come along and they take a taste and they’re like, “Mmmm! This is delicious!” And I’m like, “No it’s not.” And they’re like, “Have you ever had jerky?” And I’m like, “No.” “And they’re like, “Then you’re crazy cause this is really good jerky.”
So I’ve never had jerky but if jerky just tastes like salmon or meat flavored plastic, NO THANK YOU.
And guess what folks? We’re finally here, the last meal of the trip. We saved our money, we made a reservation, and now it’s time to visit the court of Seattle’s most distinguished chef, Tom Douglas. Welcome to DAHLIA LOUNGE:
I remember seeing a Tom Douglas cookbook back in Atlanta when I was first shoplifting cookbooks from charity cookbook stores (ok, that was a weird joke but I’m leaving it in.) When I think Tom Douglas I think of a bearded man holding a large fish. If you’ve seen his cookbook, you’ll know what I mean. And did you know Ed Levine wrote the introduction?
Inside, Craig and I sat at the table a bit fatigued from all our travels:
Were we bored with each other? Were we ready for the trip to be over? Before we could answer those questions, Craig got up to go to the bathroom. I began studying my menu and suddenly I hear a whistle. I look up and there’s our lunchmates from the day before, Molly Orangette and Brandon! (Visual refresher:
They were there with Melissa of The Traveler’s Lunchbox and her husband, Manuel. I gasped in surprise and then stood and scooted over to their table to introduce myself proper and for some reason Brandon stayed behind at our booth so when Craig came back from the bathroom he slid in and saw Brandon, not me, and was way confused. It’s really funny to think about.
So Molly, Melissa, Manuel and Brandon gave Craig and I some tips on the menu, we said our goodbyes and returned to our seat. Then we met our waitress, an awesome waitress, who steered us through the menu with great wisdom and pluck. (In fact, she gave me a copy of the menu to take home because she saw I was taking pictures of my food and she probably thought I’d enjoy that–which I did!)
To start, Craig and I shared half a dozen oysters on the half shell:
(In case you think the picture above and the following pictures look really good, it’s because Craig put my camera on manual mode, he adjusted the aperture and shutter speed and used auto focus to take all these pics. I’m sure you’re going to say: so much better! What a relief! You’re so predictable, audience.)
The oysters were awesome as was the sea scallop sashimi, salmon caviar and chili paste which you see at 1 o’clock on the tray.
After that, we decided to share a pre-entree cheese course (which I think is strange to offer, but Craig loves cheese so I went along with): Colorouge soft ripened cow’s milk cheese, savory apple dumpling, crab apple jelly and local arugula.
Nice presentation, the individual components were great BUT: (1) the waitress should’ve said, “This dish wouldn’t really be good to share” because, as you can see, there’s hardly anything on the plate; and (2) the ingredients are so disparate and spread apart it doesn’t really feel like a cohesive dish, it feels like a bunch of siblings that hate each other at a family reunion that you have to talk to one at a time because they refuse to gather for group conversation.
But that was the low point. Now for the high points. Behold Tom Douglas’s masterpiece, the crab cake–specifically, Lemon-Scallion Dungeness crab cakes, pumpkin–black bean hash, smoked pepper hollandaise, fig molasses:
Now I made a deal with Craig. I wanted to order the Crab Cakes first but when he said he was going to order them I said, well I’ll order something else and give you half if you give me a crab cake so we can explore more of the menu. That something else that I ordered was: Wood grilled Alaska troll caught king salmon, crispy skin with fennel salt, caramelized fennel, green olive-fennel frond verjusnette: [how’s that for too much description??]
This was poetry on a plate. I loved the crisped skin, I loved the way the salmon was cooked separate, I loved the way all the flavors and textures worked together.
“So we don’t have to share?” brokered Craig. “I can eat both of these crab cakes?”
“No,” I hissed, “we had a deal!”
So halfway through we switched and as much as I loved the salmon, those crab cakes were sheer heaven. A trip to Seattle without trying one would be trip poorly planned.
Now for the most hyped dish of the trip. Everywhere I went, people who spoke of Tom Douglas said, “You have to try his coconut cream pie.” Craig’s father and sister raved over it, as did several of Craig’s friends. So when it came to dessert, I insisted that we order it. Here it is:
I took a bite and felt a sudden shock. Not a shock from the intensity of the flavor, but the opposite: the mildness of the flavor. This was REAL coconut. Not bagged sweetened coconut, but real fresh coconut put into a pie. It took a moment to work its magic and then it did and I suddenly felt waves and waves of guilt wash over me. Why guilt?
Last year I went to Labortorio Del Gelato in New York and wrote a bad review of their coconut gelato because it had no flavor. But as I ate Tom Douglas’s coconut cream pie I realized my mistake: the coconut gelato didn’t have no flavor, it had the same fresh coconut flavor that this pie had. My tastebuds were dead from artificial coconut and it took Tom Douglas to revive them. Oh Labortorio, can you ever forgive me?
Since this was our last meal, we couldn’t go out on just one dessert. So we went out with a bang. A bang in a bag: a bag of doughnuts with vanilla and cranberry dips.
These were the lightest, airiest, fluffiest doughnuts I’ve ever tasted. I have no idea how he does it: egg whites only? Lots of baking powder or something? Paging Harold McGee. But for a way to end the trip, I can think of nothing more perfect.
And that, my friends, brings us to a close. Hope you’ve enjoyed our journey to Seattle. Where’s my microphone? Baby I hear the blues are calling tossed salads and scrambled eggs…