Seattle and Portland, August 14, 2014—
(but written and posted the following day)
OUR FIRST COFFEE this morning was at a place that had been recommended for its very good coffee, in spite of its mediocre pastries. I certainly concur on the second point: my croissant was dry, bready, dull, chewy, and bland. My cappuccino seemed acidic and not terribly fresh.
• Herkimer Coffee, 7320 Greenwood Avenue North, Seattle; 206-784-0202
ON, THEN, across the street, to the place whose pastries had been heartily recommended, though the coffee was said to be substandard. Here I had a truly delicious crossiant: flaky, buttery, alert, nicely browned. And the cappuccino was really quite nice -- floral, a little fruity, carefully made, from a machine obviously well maintained. The coffee was Stumptown, by the way — Portland coffee in Seattle!
• Fresh Flours Bakery, 6015 Phinney Avenue North, Seattle; 206-297-3300
LUNCH WAS HARD to pin down: lots of restaurants and bars in the area we were concerned with — Ballard — but most of them not open for lunch. We settled on this bar-and-grill type place, pleasantly installed in a big, historic former firehouse; and here I had a "Nicoise," note the quotes, which was decent enough.
• The Hi-Life, 5425 Russell Avenue Northwest, Seattle; 206-784-727
BY DINNER TIME we were in Portland, a city given to the pleasures of the table. The difference between last night's restaurant, Bar Sajor, and tonight's, Davenport, defines the difference between Seattle and Portland, at least to my way of thinking. What a fine place Davenport turned out to be! I started with a perfect Martini, to accompany the starters our table shared: a nice vegetarian fritto misto and a platter of correctly seared padrones and piparra vasca (some of which seemed quite piquant). I looked longingly at the foie gras listing on the menu, promising a garnish of shiro plum and spelt date toast, but forebore, choosing instead the grilled teres major you see in the photo, a sort of flatiron steak grilled and served with arugula and an onion, tomato, and anchovy salsa.
Everything here was simple, honest, straightforward, well sourced, and perfectly executed. And the wine list! I don't know when I've seen so wide-ranging and interesting a list, or one with more atrractive prices. Since we hew to a budget I wasn't able to range quite that far myself, but we were happy with what we had…
Nebbiolo, Castello di Verduno (Langhe), 2011
• Davenport, 2215 East Burnside Street, Portland; 503-236-8747