so there’s always the age-old dilemma…where to go next? with a horde of co-workers? after a long week of work and jetlag, we all let our proverbial hair down and broke free from the confines of the airport-office-hotel bermuda triangle to head into the city for some grub and non-HR violating adventure. after taking a much-anticipated break from standard austrian fare, we debated outside the restaurant for a good 15+ minutes about “what now?”, and then just started walking in a random direction. much like a new orleans second line parade, we played the part of jovial (read: loud and obnoxious) americans until we came upon más, a mexican cocktail bar in the middle of vienna. with a drink menu of ~100 items, i quickly zeroed in on the fernet but was soon disappointed to find out they did not have coke. NO COKE. AT A BAR. scheiße. and then without fail, coworkers + drinks = work talk * 1000. luckily, there was a ginormous lava-like lamp nearby that inspired one of the crowd who rallied us to blow that mexican popsicle joint and ask “what now?”
life goes on whether you’re ready or not, and sometimes that’s the best thing possible- leaving your troubles 14 hrs behind and taking flight for a business trip to vienna. while in the imperial city, what co-workers envied as a work vacation was in reality a work-athon across three time zones. luckily, european sensibilities at the hotel bar soon prevailed and evening conference calls with the empire soon blended with cordial glasses of fernet in the adjacent business center. some of my colleagues were luckier than me and able to escape during the off-hours to enjoy the environs, including the nearby schönbrunn palace. but for me, mehr glück beim nächsten mal, in more ways than one.
sometimes you feel tired. sometimes you feel sad. sometimes you just feel tired of being sad…and that’s when breakups ensue. and leading up to every breakup is the last happy moment you can remember of that relationship, the sweetness leading up to a bitter end. for me, this was hawksworth, the lounge grounding vancouver’s rosewood hotel georgia. emerging from the roaring 20’s, this hotel housed hollywood royalty, british royalty, and yes, even the king of rock and roll. sitting underneath big love (irony?), i sipped on kaj hackinen’s la croix: a cocktail of gin, giffard pamplemousse, fernet and cucumbers. had i known what the future would bring, i might have ordered the louis xiii rare cask 42,6, a rare cognac sheathed in baccarat black crystal and 22k rose gold. instead, i left the building just like elvis had so long ago, leaving behind that heartbreak hotel.
my counselor tells me that having traditions is important; not necessarily the “traditional” ones like christmas and cotillions, but any celebration that you can count on year over year. borne from white elephants and gifts excavated from dingy closets, my tradition evolved into what is now affectionately know today as the “booze exchange”. while the friends may have changed, the rules always stay the same: show up, eat brunch, and bring a wrapped gift of alcoholic content. this year’s venue: the stunningly scenic westward on northlake. both beautiful on the inside and out, this “water-themed” restaurant features a boat dock, fire pit for rent, bar dioramas (!), and the adjoining little gull grocery store/oyster bar– all elements perfect for creating new traditions.
many things in this world are made to complement each other such as turkey and gravy or sick nights at home and zombie tv marathons. and then there are those things that elevate each other, adding two individual values to a sum that is greater than its parts; namely breakups and jeff buckley or shopping and cocktails. with that being said, more retailers should capitalize on the latter and here’s a little parable on why: once there was a young lady who had long pondered the idea of marrying her two loves of fashion and cocktails. as she sipped on her spicy mezcal cocktail of smoke & heat and gazed upon mannequins of lanvin and valentino, she built up the liquid courage to meander next door to the house of shiny things and came out with rosy cheeks and quite the bobble. so where’s the moral of this story? maybe things didn’t work out for nordie’s this time, but just imagine the possibilities if tiffany’s had a bartender?!
once upon a time, there was a girl that wanted to eat as many michelin stars as she could in one trip. she flew across the atlantic ocean, and landed in the northern coast of basque country, where she dined on banksy masterpieces, stray x’s, and a most magical meal in the spanish countryside. one thing that she missed trying on that trip was the local drink kalimotxo, equal parts of red wine and cola. sounds simple enough you might say, but one should never presume. thus started the search for a local purveyor: enter pintxo. featuring castillian tapas and a popular happy hour, they also are the proud owners of a partially covered backyard patio reminiscent of the bars of williamsburg. and the kalimotxo you ask? well yeah, it’s really is as simple as it sounds, but never forget that complexity is simple. simplicity is hard.
let’s face it: despite your best attempts to plan, sometimes life points it’s finger at you and laughs. and every once in a while, that unexpected twist turns out for the best. such was the circumstances that brought me to bar cotto, ethan stowell‘s newest seattle venture. situated on the cusp of central district and capitol hill, this charcuterie-focused bar was everything that cure wasn’t; a curated menu, fabulous cocktails, and bedside manner behind the bar. and better yet? my first brush with lambrusco frizzante, a sparkling red wine with a drinkability profile fit for day-drinking on a southern veranda, or spending a saturday night parked in front of a trashy reality tv marathon. popular in the 70’s, whats old is new, and lambrusco is making a comeback in a big way on wine lists throughout the city. and while the seattle summer is fading away, move over rosé; labrusco is here to stay.
believe it or not, it only took me a year and a half to finally catch up on my backlogged blog…that in itself deserves a drink. and what better note to end/begin on than new year’s eve at the pink door. tucked away in post alley, this cabaret-meets-cave is famous for their signature lasagna– something i refuse to eat anywhere else, and i’m fairly sure it’s made of angels. on saturdays, my favourite glamazon sydney devereaux produces a heck of a burlesque production in the back bar, where cocktail concoctions abound. this all reinforces the fact that there are few things more satisfying about celebrating a new year in the first world than seeing other people work hard while you’re kicking back with a belly full of angels and a drink in hand.
in the words of mississippi rockabilly legend lee denson (aka jesse james) who purportedly taught elvis how to play guitar, the south’s gonna rise again. growing up asian in the south, i always felt out-of-place. people always assumed i was related to/ the same person as that other “oriental” kid in school. when my chance finally came, i fled to the pacific northwest, officially for college, unofficially, to stalk my favourite band. upon arrival, i experienced the exact opposite of what i expected, “why are there so many asian people here??” during my first years here, friends from back home pointed out my new-found valley girl accent (aka loss of a southern twang), but as i have thrived here the last decade, i’ve grown nostalgic over southern ways and have come to miss its food and hospitality. with the recent elevation of chefs such as sean brock and linton hopkins in the culinary arena, what was once poor man’s fare has been made shiny and vogue. restaurants across the country are jumping on the bandwagon of grits and gravy gravitas, with the sexton leading the charge for the ballard troops. however, a southern food establishment in the northwest is much like a chinese girl raised in the south, a juxtaposition of something half way between here and there. sure the cocktails are served in mason jars, but jalapeno vodka is less southern and more south of the border. and yes, all the usual suspects are on the menu: fried chicken, hush puppies, and more, but i seriously doubt that any of it had lard, a staple in any southern grocery store. so while a valiant war was fought by the sexton, i’ll march on for something that feels more like home.
i guess its kinda weird to write about a bar that no longer exists, but for the sake of posthumous posterity, i’ll deliver a review fit for eulogy. i will say this – the other multitudes of businesses that have inhabited the corner of pine and belmont have never been long-lived…it’s where businesses are born to die. established as an “asian-fusion tap & eatery”, kiki had good intention, with (very) small plates like spring rolls, calamari, and tuna poke. For those with heartier appetites, servings of pork belly rice and vietnamese curry warm hungry bellies. what i remember most was the cocktails, but sadly, they were mind-numbingly sweet. with all that said, kiki will be sorely missed for the attentive staff and its will to survive against all odds. rather than feel the loss, this is a celebration of their life, so let’s have a kiki.