Tazo Store

Even though I hate-hate-hate coffee, I like Starbucks. Which is kinda dumb, since their tea selection is just this side of extremely pathetic. There are something like six or eight varieties of their Tazo brand tea, all middle-of-the-road options (“Awake” is a standard black, for example), and only available as tea bags. I prefer loose tea, and I prefer more options.

Wandering through the University Village this afternoon, I went into the one and only (so far) Tazo tea store. It had an of-the-moment design aesthetic, all blond wood and white tiles, very airy and clean-looking. The Asian accents are, of course, to be expected, since that’s where tea is from, after all.

First of all, they’ve got a pretty good selection of varieties. Maybe better than Market Spice in Pike Place, but less impressive than The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie, two of my favorites. (And certainly WAY more expensive than both.) But, still, a decent selection. The fun part is the ability to make your own blends. They have botanicals and fruits and what not in little jars you can sniff and match up to the teas you’re interested in. That’s just super awesome. I plan to try it out in the not too distant future.

They’ll even steep you up a hot or iced version of anything in the store. I had a Tropical Jasmine iced tea, infused with bubbles! Very enjoyable on a warm (for Seattle anyway) day.

I fervently hope that the store sticks around, and that Starbucks expands it into a chain. Even though Starbucks has recently purchased Teavana, a much less interesting experience to say the least, Tazo would be an excellent addition to their brands.

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Dahlia Workshop

I’ve been to a number of Tom Douglas’s restaurants here in Seattle. Lola is perfection, Etta’s is disappointing, Serious Pie is delicious. Today I tried out one of his newest, only a couple or three months old, Dahlia Workshop.

It’s a small place on the first floor of a two story space. (Sharing the first floor is a wine shop, and on the second is another Serious Pie location.) Workshop is all about the biscuits. In fact, the first half of the menu is labelled “BISCUITS”. I tried the fennel sausage biscuit, which came with an egg and some pepper relish and fontina cheese. It was really quite tasty. The sausage was great, but the biscuit was the surprise, buttery without falling apart in my hands. Leslie had the fried chicken biscuit (with the gravy on the side to make it less completely disgusting). She loved it.

The service was kind of slow. I think they’re staffed short. There was only one guy at the griddle, and while they weren’t swamped, there was a steady flow of Sunday afternoon patrons wandering in. But that’s a minor gripe when the food is so good and the people are so nice.

Recommended!

Voodoo Doughnut

Friends suggested a stop on the way down to Tillamook, Voodoo Doughnut, and I’m always up for a good pastry.

First off, we got there around 11 pm, and the line was out the door. I think this place is printing money. The menu is ridiculously large. There were multiple kinds of fritters. (One friend got the Memphis Mafia, and was still eating it the next day.) Raised doughnuts. (I got the McMinnville Cream, a maple glazed doughnut filled with Bavarian cream… Yum!) Cake doughnuts. (I also got an Arnold Palmer, with lemon and tea sprinkled on it. Very tasty.)

The place is not designed to be a hangout. They want you in and out, but that’s okay. Most of the crowd there were college kids and there was a distinct aroma of mary jane in the room. (Or that’s what they told me. I’m hard of smelling.)

The flagship location is closed for renovation, but locations Two (the one I went to) and Three (down in Eugene) appear to be going strong.

Check em out.

Laredos Grill

As a former resident of Texas, I’m afraid I’m a bit of a snob about Mexican food. If the salsa is watery or the enchiladas have olives on them, I’m not going to be happy. (And don’t get me started on the horror that is Azteca.)

I tried out Laredos Grill the other night. It’s over near the Seattle Center, but thankfully not TOO near. It’s mostly a bar, and on a Thursday night, it was a little loud for me, but the chips and salsa immediately perked me up. I always like a place that offers you, unrequested, TWO salsas! And the chips were fresh.

I ordered one of the specials, a Jamaican jerk chick taco plate. It was muy caliente, and also muy delicioso! I tried Leslie’s more traditional enchiladas, and they were also good, with a spicy verde sauce.

I wish the place was open for lunch, but I’ll forgive them for that when they’re bringing what feels like authentic Tex-mex (of the Austin variety) to Seattle.

Madhu — Chicken Korma

I’ve been to the Indian restaurant Madhu on 2nd Ave (between Battery and Bell) often enough, but tonight I had their Chicken Korma for the first time. I’m no culinary expert, so I can’t tweeze apart the flavors in the creamy sauce, except to call them “tasty” and “spicy”. (I went with a heat level of 4 stars. Yum.) My wife had what you can see in the background, which is something to do with eggplant. I didn’t love it, but it was interesting. It’s called Bhartha. (Not to be confused with Bartha.)

The place is nice, the staff is friendly, and they seem to have a pretty good bar, though that’s not really my thing. And don’t forget to get the naan. Oh, so delicious, even when it’s just plain.

 

Banana Leaf

I’m a big fan of Malaysian cuisine. I first had it in Australia, and since a couple of times in New York and Vancouver. It’s not particularly easy to find, so I like to pounce on it when I have the opportunity. Driving down West Broadway in Vancouver, I spotted Banana Leaf and thought, “Yay!”

Sadly, I was really unimpressed. I had a chicken noodle soup that was super-bland, and the chicken was of questionable quality, and (a big no-no in the Russell Book), it still had the skin on. Yuck. Leslie’s Nasi Goreng (a supposedly spicy noodle dish) was nearly as bad. Yes, the spring rolls were super tasty, but that wasn’t enough for me.

The happy ending to the story? I really enjoyed the sandwich I got at Tim Hortons across the street, though!

ShuRaku

At the corner of Granville and Robson in downtown Vancouver, you should look for a Japanese restaurant called ShuRaku. The place is stylish, the staff are friendly, and the prices are quite reasonable. (Except for the rice sides. $2.50 for a little bowl of starch?)

Leslie had the sukyaki, which I don’t really understand, but she liked it. She “even liked the tofu”. So, I guess that’s good.  I had the grilled hokke, which I’m told is a kind of mackerel. This was a special, but it was really good. Basically, they took a fish, butterfly-cut it, removed the yucky bits, and put the thing, skin side down, on a grill. I don’t know if they added anything. (Maybe some salt?) This was a strangely dry fish, but it was delicious. I didn’t even mind pulling out the meat and avoiding the bones using chopsticks.

If you like Japanese food, and you’re in the area, give it a try.