just like there are two sides of every coin, the same can be said of queen anne. upper queen anne sits high on a hill of restaurants and reformed dinks, but its little brother downstairs shows quite the contrast. lower queen anne, ex-home of the zombie sonics, seems to answer the call of “where do frat boys go when they grow up?” having such a reputation can deter the cocktail-inclined, but i couldn’t pass up a martini bar spliced with a tiki bar. on the bright side, all the drinks are served up in martini glasses that seemed cartoonishly big. and in this world where you can’t count on much, you can count on a nightcap here; they have a track record of being open every day for 15 years “through floods, fires, parades, riots, power outages, presidential elections, and even earthquakes”. kinda like waffle house, but totally not.
so what is there to say about canlis that hasn’t been said before? well let’s see… people make it out like the second coming of chocolate jesus, but i beg to differ. one of my cardinal rules in life is that i’ll try anything twice, and there are 3 things i took away from my 2 experiences at canlis. #1: i was warned repeatedly by the staff to ensure the dress code was enforced (blazer for the gents), so WHY THE FUCK do i see a guy in a north face fleece sitting at the table next to us?? (and seriously seattle, do you think you could try to step up your fashion game *just a smidge* for a nice night out?) #2: i ordered a pricey lobster tail, because i figured “while in rome”, it’s “go big or go home”. what i received was one of the chewiest lumps of seafood i have had to date. was i naive in making the assumption that a renowned establishment such as canlis could figure out the appropriate cooking time and temperature to produce a satisfactory $100 lobster tail?? in all honesty, i’d prefer the $8 lobster tail up-charge at the snoqualmie casino’s surf & turf buffet any day. #3: after having one (or more) drinks at the equally classy establishment of a pizza mart, i settled in at canlis’ bar and waited for what seemed like eternity for attention from the barkeep. so ok, i get it when someone is “in the weeds”, but at least try to maintain a semblance that you aren’t stressed the fuck out because frankly, it stresses me out and makes me need that drink even quicker. upon checkout, i politely asked for a glass of water to-go (perhaps an odd request, but i really needed it, and for god’s sake, this is a restaurant after all, not some ill-equipped holy temple that wouldn’t have any to-go containers). what i got in return was a most panicked look from the waiter. REALLY?? the one redeeming moment of my experience (and trust me, it wasn’t the bill) was that the bartender poured out a large bottle of pom wonderful for use as a water transport vessel. well, at least the water was free.
i have a unique breed of friends that like me, are planners, and thus book out abnormally far ahead. as a result, simple things like getting together for dinner end up being more of a three-month plan. such was the case that led us to claw our way into the reservation log of the book bindery. located on the cusp of slu, fremont, and queen anne, the book bindery is tucked away in what looks like an unassuming warehouse, one that is easily passed (i drove by it twice on accident) and shared with their sibling winery almquist family vintners (make sure to check out their manifesto, evidently grapes “tell you what they want to be…”) but i digress, and what the fuck do i know about wine anyway. so there i was, ruminating over some of the sexy cocktails on the bindery’s list, one of which was the lusty lady, borne from gin, lime, cranberry, lavender bitters, and egg white. let me say now, i am a sucker for fizzes, flips, anything with the body of a rubenesque woman. a few sips in, and i was forced to refocus on the food menu, at which point, the glass shattered. out of two pages full of apps and entrées, i couldn’t find one fucking thing i wanted. how was that possible? how did i wait three months and weather two reschedules for an uninspired menu full of foie gras foam and top scallop? <aside: i will say that slow roasted hen egg was worth coveting from my friend.> things got worse when i went bartender’s choice for my next round and received something that tasted like an old man’s bottom dresser drawer. i ended up trading my cocktail for my friend’s glass of grape-talking red (yeah, it was that bad). some things simply aren’t worth waiting for.
q: what do you do when you find out that a person you’ve been in love with for over ten years got married last week to someone with your same name and breed of dog?
a: you call your boys and you go DRINKING.
after uncovering some disheartening news in the early afternoon, i suited up for a previously arranged dinner with friends later that day. we shot straight for the top of queen anne hill to emmer & rye, a relative newcomer on the seattle culinary community. situated in a hundred year-old victorian house, emmer & rye dishes out seasonal, locavore cuisine with a rustic aesthetic. i must admit that the food was tasty, and were it not for the spotty service, i’d flock back for more. what emmer lacked in service, it did however make up for in drink selections (which was mission critical that evening). in addition to my customary fernet, i also ordered its tasty apertif compadre cynar, an artichoke based bitter. like its italian counterpart, cynar also mixes wonderfully with coke and readied me for the events that would ensue as the night marched on (to zig zag), including a custom concoction of cynar + fernet, affectionately named “the heartbreak hotel”.
having sampled two of ethan stowell’s culinary endeavours (union and anchovies & olives), my expectations of how to cook a wolf weren’t stellar. however, having failed twice to get a seat at this no reservations restaurant since its opening in 2007 made it all the more appetizing (i’ve affectionately termed this reoccurring theme in my life as the “something i can never have” syndrome). we arrived minutes before six, and by some act of god, not only did i score a vip parking spot out front, but we also managed to grab the last table in this 30-seater. there was a moment of trepidation when i put in my drink order and the waitress didn’t think they carried fernet, but thank god that confusion was soon rectified. we proceeded to order a mini-feast of small plates and entrees, including a tasty hamachi crudo, escalating to a mouth-watering hand-spun tagliatelle with escolar, and climaxing at the only duck confit i’ve ever loved. all in all, a gastronomic experience that greatly exceeded my expectations, and may have even reset my napa-vision™.
people are often surprised to find out that i’ve never seen a tattoo being inked. sure, i’ve got a few, but i’m not one to watch blood being drawn out of my arm either. if i can’t see it, it’s not really happening – the pain isn’t real…denial to the nth degree. given this, you can imagine my excitement when i finally had the prospect of watching my friend get her new piece (RIP little lizard). we ditched work early and headed over to our mutual tattoo shop in ballard (with a short but profound stop at virace pizza). however, the tattoo gods were not looking kindly upon us and the session had a last minute reschedule (to make a long story short, this involved numerous phone calls, a policeman, a broken light switch, and saviour pizza). after assuring that all was quiet on the western/ballard front, i had some extra time on my hands…so i decide to do an easy, breezy drop-in at toulouse in lower queen anne. it was never more evident than that night that thursday really is the new friday, for the bar was packed to the brim. luckily, it pays to repay favours, for i had a tasty toronto within minutes of arrival. a short visit and hemline later, i was well on my way home, with a smile on my face.