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This is short review about a tiny place – Bathtub Gin & Co. – a great little watering hole tucked away in a Seattle Belltown alley.

The lower level of Bathtub Gin & Co.

The lower level of Bathtub Gin & Co.

The bar has the feel of a prohibition-era speak-easy – minimalist décor, dark (but not gloomy) interior, shelves full (and I mean brimming) with beautiful bottles of various booze, and a few tables and chairs set up throughout its two tiny floors.  Even the exterior is discrete and you have to keep your eyes peeled for the tiny sign to the right of the nondescript door leading to this lair (located in a street between 1rst and 2nd Avenue).

Unlike a prohibition-era speak-easy, however, you are certainly not drinking moonshine.  The bartender would certainly not stand for it.

Cocktail and the bar's namesake.

Cocktail and the bar’s namesake.

Instead, he has a number of craft cocktails on offer, and if you’re feeling adventurous he’ll ad lib a drink to suit your mood.  And it is this feature that really sets Bathtub Gin & Co. apart from your average bar – the way that the set up and bar staff work together to create a feeling of intimacy and conviviality.

The drinks are all delicious, and there is something for everyone.  Cocktails are about $10 each, but (this being Seattle) there’s a happy hour menu of $7 cocktails.

If you’re in Belltown and in the mood for a special and original experience, look not further than Bathtub Gin & Co.  Just be sure to look hard, or you might miss it.

 

Bathtub Gin & Co. on Urbanspoon

A delicious baguette sandwich is a beautiful thing – especially when it’s done right.  I was consequently glad to come across Baguette Box in Seattle’s Capitol Hill area, because they do it right and then some.

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The delicious drunken chicken sandwich.

Baguette Box is a no frills, feel-good sandwich place with style.  We arrived right at opening on a lazy Sunday and were greeted by the friendly counter staff who made two great selections – drunken chicken (to foreshadow the next 2 days…?) and a veggie eggplant sandwich. Both were delicious.

The eggplant sandwich was well seasoned and did not have greasiness to it.  The texture was nice, too – smooth and creamy which contrasted with the bread’s crunchy crust.

The drunken chicken sandwich was similarly well executed.  It was spicy but not too spicy.  I appreciated that they didn’t go overboard with the sauce to make the sandwich soggy.  In fact, despite the depth of flavour, the sandwich had a lightness to it.  This was no doubt the result of the fresh ingredients.

In terms of value, Baguette Box is actually pretty good.  A filling sandwich (or rice bowl) rings in just under $8.  Oh…and did I mention that they serve beer?  I would definitely recommend this place for a pit stop on your way to Capitol Hill from Seattle downtown – a great spot to recharge, or load up on picnic goodies for a sunny summer day.

Baguette Box on Urbanspoon

My yen for Italian comfort food continues, and brought me to Rione XIII, the lovely restaurant in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle.  The restaurant was recommended to me by a friend, and I’m grateful for it.

Tripe and MargheritaThe atmosphere is chic without being casual, clean but not sterile.  The lighting, like the service, is warm and inviting.  We showed up around 5pm’ish (around happy hour…as luck would have it…) and we proceeded to gorge ourselves on what was on offer.  The stand-out dish was the tripa alla romana, a tripe and bean dish in a lovely, rich tomato sauce.  The tripe was well cooked – firm but not too chewy – and the flavours worked well together.

Next up was the margherita pizza.  The crust was chewy and not too crunch, and the tomato sauce was well seasoned and a nice little sweet and salty balancing act.  For some reason, I found the homemade mozzarella a little “meh”, but then the fried artichokes swooped in and saved the day.  All was washed down with some surprisingly wonderful cocktails:  Spritz (aperol, soda, and prosecco) and Americano (sweet Vermouth, Campari, and soda).

in terms of value, this was a very reasonable restaurant (though we, admittedly, enjoyed the benefits of a happy hour menu) and we both ate well for $50 (including drinks).  If ever you’re in the neighbourhood, I would definitely check out Rione XIII – a restaurant that scores high in terms of ambiance, value, and flavour.

Rione XIII on Urbanspoon

Lemonade with Lemon Tart.

Lemonade with Lemon Tart.

For years now, I have been making home-made lemonade.  There is nothing like fresh-pressed lemons, or even the bright smell of lemons on your hands after you’ve squeezed a half-dozen of those bad boys.  I was first inspired to try this by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s excellent River Cottage series.  The recipe he provides, and which I’ve reproduced in my own form below, is genius because it makes great tasting lemonade, and also because one can add his or her own twists to this classic drink.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 organic lemons
  • 3/4 cups of sugar (more if you like your lemonade sweet, or if your lemons are unusually tart)
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 3 cups of cold water (or less if you want a more concentrated lemonade)

INSTRUCTIONS

First, wash away the wax on the outside of your lemons.  I like to dampen my hands with water ever so slightly, take a big handful of salt, and then rub/clean the lemons.  The salt is rough enough to remove the wax without damaging the skin of the lemons.

Next, grate away the outside of lemons and put what you get in a big bowl.  After you’re done that, cut your lemons in half, squeeze every bit of juice out of them (with a juicer, or by hand) and put the juice in with the grated lemon skins.

Dump in your sugar and then your cup of hot water.  Mix well to help the sugar dissolve in the liquid.  Let everything steep for about 30 minutes.  Strain the mixture to get rid of any of the rind/skin and skin.  What you will have is a lemonade base.  This is a beautiful thing, and you can do a number of things with it.

You can add the 3 cups of water I mentioned above, to make your garden variety lemonade.  If you want to make your lemonade more fizzy, add some Sprite or 7-Up instead of the water.  If you want it fizzy but less sweet, add some San Peligrino or other carbonated water instead of the water.  You can also add booze (Bourbon, Gin, and Vodka mix happily with the mix), or you can infuse your drink with mint, elder flowers, or other delicious fruits.

The only thing I would really recommend is that before your put in your water/Sprite/carbonated water/booze into the steeped mix, you should put in a little less than you think you’ll need.  The reason is that you’ll likely put in some ice cubes when you serve the drink, and these will melt and dilute your drink.  It’s always easy to add more water, but once it’s in you’re stuck with it.  Then again…you can always add some more of the concentrate.  Enjoy!

With the advent of more social media toys to make blogging more fun, I have decided to give my blog another try.  It’s also a great way to track all the yummy recipes I tend to lose behind my stove…

This isn’t a food related post…strictly speaking.

 

Recently, I’ve been addicted to a great app called “Mushroom Garden”.  It’s wildly popular in Japan, and if you play this game you’ll understand why.

The point of the game is to raise mushroom and collect numerous “mutant” mushrooms.  It’s a bit like Zombie Farm, and is totally addictive.  The mushrooms/funghi are super cute, too.   Amazingly, the app is free(!) so there’s no excuse not to give it a try!  Available on iPhone/iTouch or Android.

 

Linzer Cookies (or “Petits Viennois” as my people call them) are a tradition around the holidays.  They are also addictive and delicious, and once you taste one you will certainly conjure any excuse to make them.  It’s just as well, really, because they’re dead easy.

Linzer Cookies

The key to their success, as with all things, is organization, good quality butter, and high quality jam (you could always make your own, if you’re feeling adventurous).

Now, the photo I have is of winter holiday-themed cookies, but I’m sure you’ll be able to use your imagination and find some heart or cupid cut-outs for the cookies’ centre windows.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100g of sugar
  • 125g of butter (cold), chopped into pea-sized cubes
  • 250g of flour
  • 4 tablespoons of milk (optional)
  • rasberry or strawberry jam
  • icing sugar

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.  Sift your flour and mix in your sugar.   Then, work in the butter cubes with your hands by rubbing it into the flour-sugar mixture.  Your goal is to incorporate the butter without overworking the dough.  If you’re finding the dough not coming together or its a little dry/crumbly, add some of that milk I mentioned above one tablespoon at a time.  Your final goal should be a uniform dough.

2.  Wrap your dough in cling film, press it down so you get a Camembert-looking shape, and let it cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3.  While your dough is cooling, set your oven to 380 Fahrenheit.  Check your email, have a glass of wine, and clear some workspace for the next step.

4.  Lightly flour your surface and roll out your dough until it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick.  It is important that the dough is uniformly that thickness.  If some areas are thinner, those cookies will bake (and potentially burn) more quickly.

5.  Once you have your dough rolled out, use a cookie cutter (or that wine class that you’ve just emptied into your belly…arherm…) and get busy cutting out your cookies.  You should have once circle for the base, and another for the top.

6.  Once you have an even number of circles, punch a hole in every other circle with a smaller cookie cutter (a thimble might do the trick) to make your jam windows.

7.  Bake your cookies for about 12 minutes until they are a light brown.  The timing will depend on your oven, so keep a close eye on  the cookies.  They burn quick, and taste horrible if they do.

8.  Once your cookies have baked to perfection, let them cool just a little on the counter as you prepare your icing sugar.  Then, using a fine meshed strainer (a tea strainer can do if you’re in a pinch), dust the tops of your cookies (i.e., the circles with the holes/jam windows in them) until they are evenly covered but not caked in icing sugar.

9.  Right, you’re almost done.  Spread some of that lovely jam on the bottom of your cookies and then cover them with your icing-covered circles.  I would recommend assembling a few warm-up cookies first to perfect the ideal amount of jam you would like to use.

That’s it.  If you’re organized and fast, the entire thing should take less than 1.5hrs.  Though this may seem like a lot, most of it is waiting around/wine drinking time.  Better yet, make it quality time for you and the one you love (and some more of that wine…) this Valentine’s Day.

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