Tuesday, August 18, 2009

From Gastropub to Gastroclub, SeeSound Lounge Launches a New Concept to Seattle's Culinary Scene

I was stunned last year to hear the word gastropub for the first time after Spur opened its doors in Seattle last year. Perhaps this outs my culinary ignorance, or perhaps my age and lack of hip-ness to the "scene," but I was quite fascinated by this idea of a pub or bar that also puts a premium focus on its food.

It's not that I never associated good food with a pub. In fact, the very first pub I went to (at least legally) was the Pig & Whistle, strategically located over the hill from my dorm at the University of San Francisco. The food was always decent, but what did I know back then, especially when I lived by the saying, "Guiness is food." Over the (many many) years and multitude of bars and restaurants I've been to since then, the idea of a gastronomically focused pub or bar just eluded me. Sure I've been to bars with great food, but primarily because of the restaurant it would supplement while people either waited for their tables, dined alone, or skirted the reservation idea. Even now, my mind still grapples with this idea of a destination bar with a restaurant to supplement.
And now, I have come to experience not a gastropub, but a gastroCLUB.
Say whaaaaaaat???

Yes my friends, a gastroclub! Belltown's See Sound Lounge is altering its status from one of Seattle's hottest nightclubs to Seattle's first gastroclub. Robin Leventhal, formerly of Capitol Hill's Crave Restaurant and now a contestant on this season's Top Chef Las Vegas, is bursting both Seattle's food scene and club scene with her artistically delicious creations.

I was immediately turned on to trying out the place (besides knowing that she'd be cooking there) as soon as I heard Robin would be doing her own twist on "pigs in a blanket" called piggies en croute, using hot Calebrese sausage surrounded by puff pastry. Perhaps doesn't sound so extraordinary but the taste certainly is, especially when accompanied with an apricot mustard. (pictured below)

While popcorn is a general staple at bars, and See Sound offers Truffled Popcorn. And perhaps not a typical club dish, the goat cheese and fig tart with its port gastrique offered a perfect balance of flavors and textures.

The Ahi Tuna Tartare came highly recommended by another patron and while the tuna itself was impressive, my dining companion and I were enthralled with its fennel and orange salad with miso-tobiko vinagrette.

My personal favorite, however, had to be the Panzanella. While a simple sourdough bread salad with fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic, it was the seasonal heirloom tomatoes really that really made this stand out, so much so that I had considered returning the next night on my way to a barbecue just get my fix.

Of course, we couldn't end the evening without dessert, and on a hot evening what could be better than an ice cream sandwich? Two ice cream sandwiches! Pictured below on the left is Orange Cream Ice Cream on Almond Shortbread, with one of Robin's signature caramel sauces and on the right is a Triple Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwich. And while I have no idea what that saucebed was made from (white chocolate and ???), it was so good that I actually drank it from the plate. And okay, since I've gone so far to admit that, I may as well confess that I did finger-lick the caramel from the first sandwich, too.

This is all not to neglect the signature cocktails and the highly "skilled" bartenders that See Sound Lounge is known for. It's a known fact that I would happily surrender myself to any of the bartenders' whims -- I mean for drinks of course. As for price, See Sound offers $3 happy hour specials 6-9pm. A new definition of cheap n good.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

3 Months, 7 States, 1 District, 1000s of Miles

Is it August already? Seriously? Where has the time flown?

There's no way to fully write out my full experience the last few months in one blog post, so here is a brief synposis:


  • Birthday weekend visit by my sister who was giving a talk at the University of Washington. First opportunity to buy her a drink since she turned 21 in March.
  • Surprise trip to DC for work. Even got to do a school visit in Maryland.
  • My first (and possibly last) attempt to drive in Washington, DC, including conquering my worst vehicular fear -- Dupont Circle. And THREE times no less.

  • Scoring a seat at Jose Andres' Minibar in DC, apparently one of the hardest reservations to get considering there are only 6 seats. Incredible 30+ course dinner. Molecular gastronomy just fascinates me.
  • Other DC culinary highlights: Ben's Chili Bowl, Cafe Atlantico, Penn Quarter Farmers Market, and Tangy Sweet (frozen yogurt)

  • Inventively convenient, and delicious dinner with the Spence ladies (paella and smores to be written in a future post some day)

  • Northwest Totem Cellars Vintners Dinner - an all-vegan affair at Russell Dean Lowell Catering.

  • Brunch at the Brown Bag in Kirkland. Worth the drive to the Eastside, especially for Yonatan, the most affable waiter ever.

  • Ice cream at Theno's Dairy in Redmond. Who needs a 45+minute wait for ice cream in Seattle when you can drive 30 minutes to Redmond.
  • Amma's visit
  • Anthony Bourdain & Mario Battali show and after-party. Actually favorite part was partying til close with Armandino & Marilyn Battali. No, make that reuniting with Tracey, an old high school friend and fellow foodie whom I hadn't seen in -- well, since high school.


  • Month-long personal sabbatical including solo retreat and caretaking opportunity at a retreat center in Idaho. My duties: creation, meditation and prayer. My hobbies: cooking, cooking and more cooking.
  • Hour-long drive to farmers markets in Lewiston and/or Moscow were bliss
  • Cougar Creamery/Ferdinand's Ice Cream at Washington State University
  • Dinner at the Corson Building (back in Seattle)
  • Trip to Southern California for brother's graduation. With pit-stops in West Hollywood (lunch at Tender Greens) and Malibu (dinner at Nobu)


  • Back to DC including 4th of July on the National Mall

  • Dinner at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, VA (so worth the commute)

  • Announcement of Top Chef Season 6 contestants, including Robin Leventhal from Seattle. The combination of one of my most favorite people on my most favorite show was just so incredible to bear.

  • Since I was in DC during the day of the announcement, had dinner at Zaytinya where fellow contestant, Mike Isabella serves as chef. Food was extraordinary, especially the Seasonal Mushroom dish which brought me to ecstasy.

  • Dinner at Sonoma in Capitol Hill, great way to spend a beautifully warm summer's evening

  • Back to Seattle and Burning Beast. Sorry, but what happened at Burning Beast should stay at Burning Beast. You'll just have to go next year.

  • Dinner at Branzino to check out Seattle's other Top Chef Season 6 contestant, Ashley Merriman.
  • Not just one, but TWO Outstanding in the Field Dinners. Chef Seth Caswell at Full Circle Farm and Chef Matt Dillon at UW Botanic Gardens (benefitting Seattle Youth Garden Works). Great food, great friends, great chefs in great settings. Full Circle Farm offered the most unique experience with the scratch & sniff field trip through their herb garden and giveaway bags of super-fresh produce we could pack up.

  • Weekend in New York and picnic in Central Park with H&H Bagels and whitefish salad from Zabar's Deli.

  • Back to DC and casual dinner at Himalayan Heritage. Preceded by drinks at Tabard Inn.

  • Ballard Seafood Festival and bacon-wrapped scallops sales guy.
  • Back home and back to yoga. Had to work off all the food from the past few months!