Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Birthday to B! The Local Vine Returns and Trophy Cupcakes

We had a lovely surprise Monday evening.  En route to Donna Moodie’s Marjorie, we decided to detour down 12th St. in Capitol Hill to see how the new home of The Local Vine was progressing.
The Local Vine closed their Belltown location at the end of July, shortly after learning the building they occupied would be demolished due to safety concerns. B and I were devastated.  Everyone has that go to spot… whether it’s your favorite pizza place or your neighborhood bar…  it's that place where you celebrate, drown your sorrows or just visit because you’re feeling too lazy to make dinner.  The Local Vine was, hands down, that place for us. For our first three years in Seattle, we lived in the same building they occupied.  This is why we first visited.  We kept coming back, though, because we loved the wine, the fabulous food and because we came to really love the people who worked there.  We looked forward to slow nights when we would sit at the bar for hours, drinking wine and chatting with the friendly, interesting people who comprised their staff.
Monday night we were headed to Marjorie to celebrate B’s birthday a day early.  Having just returned from a weekend long birthday celebration in LA (more to come on the amazing food from that trip) that afternoon, we were tired, excessively sunburned, wanting to continue the celebration, but desperately in need of some familiar comfort food.  Marjorie fit the bill (definitely more on Marjorie another time).  Having not heard much about the opening of TLV, though, we decided to drive by to see how things were progressing.  To our great surprise, as we approached, we could see the familiar globe lights lit from the ceiling and people sitting at the bar.
As it turns out, Monday was the first day of their soft debut!  The grand opening will be in about a week.  The new space is beautiful.  They kept the same hanging globe lights, modern, low-backed bar stools and strong red theme from the old space, but have added a much warmer, more loft-like vibe with darker woods, moveable walls and a comfortable lounge area with black sofas and comfy red pillows to lean against along the whole front wall.  They also have a beautiful retail area that we didn’t check out too closely.  Another bonus of the new space is the new neighborhood.  TLV is located right between Barrio and Tavern Law and right across the street from La Spiga.  One of the great challenges of this neighborhood will be choosing which one to try!  I hear Tavern Law makes the best burger in Seattle, so next go-round may mean dinner at Tavern Law and drinks at TLV. 
While I was too busy eating the food to photograph it (a rare occurrence for me), I did take one photo of the outside as we were leaving. Truth be told, I was even more busy talking than eating, but in any case, limited photos were the end result.

I had two major fears for the new location.  First, I worried that none of the old staff would be retained during the transition.  The closing and reopening were nearly 2 months apart, and that’s a long time for people in the service industry not to work.  Sadly, this fear was very nearly realized.  Only 2 of the familiar faces from Belltown joined the Capital Hill crew in the front of house.  We were thrilled to see Alena, one of our favorite servers, though!
My second fear was that the quality of the food would decline.  TLV’s Chef de Cuisine at the Belltown location, Jon Maley, is not only an extremely talented chef, he’s also a very cool, very funny, laid back guy.  Jon left TLV and will be joining the team at the soon-to-open Book Bindery Bistro as sous chef.  I can't tell you how excited I am for this!  Books and food- my two favorite things!  TLV's new chef, Chef Andy (whose last name I’m not sure of and the website isn’t updated yet) certainly has a different style than Jon did, but all in all, the food was good. 
They retained the truffle oil popcorn (thank goodness) as I think this has been on their menu since they first opened, but sadly eliminated the medium bowl in favor of only two sizes… huge and absurdly gluttonous.  Although it’s still wonderful with the familiar truffle oil and black sea salt, I don’t think we will continue our tradition of ordering it every time.  It’s just too much.  We also tried the snack tray which consisted of kale chips, olives, olive oil blanched Marcona almonds and spiced pecans.  All delicious.  I’m not a huge fan of kale normally, but roasting it and adding sea salt eliminated the bitterness altogether and gave it a nice light crunch.  We also had the sweet potato wedges, meatballs, Thundering Hooves steak brochettes, crème brûlee and blackberry cobbler.
The sweet potato wedges were my favorite.  Chef Andy serves them with a bourbon aioli that was a perfect balance of creamy and tangy.  The meatballs were nothing special, but had a nice flavor.  Chef Andy said they were made of a combination of house made sausage and beef. The Thundering Hooves steak brochettes were skewered in long strips with an equally wide and long strip of poblano pepper laid flat against them.  I didn’t read the menu carefully and took the poblano pepper for a bell pepper.  That was a seriously shocking, spicy mistake!  Unless you’re a big fan of spicy foods, I wouldn’t recommend eating the pepper with the steak.  It imparts enough flavor into the meat while cooking that most of us will be better off removing the steak and pepper from the skewer and just sticking with the steak!  For dessert, we had a lovely crème brûlee with bourbon glazed pecans and a blackberry cobbler.  September is bourbon month, so I’m not sure if the multiple bourbon infusions on the menu were meant to pay homage to this, but it worked well and was right up B’s alley.  The cobbler had a great flavor (nice combination of tangy and sweet), but I’m not a huge fan of berry seeds and they were abundant in this little ramekin, so I probably wouldn’t order it again.
All in all, we’re happy to have The Local Vine back… even if it is no longer walking distance for us.  We’re planning a return visit soon.

Even though B’s birthday dinner was Monday night, his actual birthday was yesterday.  When I asked him what he wanted me to make for dinner, he replied quickly, “a quesadilla.”  Quesadillas are B’s favorite thing to ask me to make.  I HATE making them.  I’m not sure why except that it seems like a lot of work for something that’s barely more than fast food.  It’s my own fault.  I’ve set a standard for quesadillas that requires lots of pepper jack grating, bacon frying, guacamole making, Hatch green chile ordering, chicken shredding, and onion/garlic mincing... when I make them the non-lazy way.  It’s his birthday, though, so what can I do?  I decided quickly that if he wanted such a plain dinner, he at least needed a birthday dessert.  In Seattle, birthday cake for two can only mean one thing:

Trophy cupcakes! I picked up 2 at University Village this afternoon (no small effort since I HATE UVillage) and was happy to see that Chocolate Peanut Butter was a flavor of the day.  There aren’t a lot of foods B likes better than peanut butter, but add some chocolate and there is no contest!  Samoas are my all-time favorite Girl Scout cookie, so that was a simple decision as well. 

In any case, our “dessert” survived a mere hour in the fridge and instead became our afternoon snack.  On the rare occasions when we have cupcakes, we normally get two different kinds and share.  The Samoa was too sweet.  Valrhona chocolate usually helps to cut the sweetness since it doesn’t have a lot of sugar itself, but this cupcake was filled with frosting.  That in addition to the caramel and sparse coconut made it just too much. 

The Chocolate Peanut Butter, on the other hand, was amazing.  I love salty and sweet together, so I was already sold, but the peanut butter frosting wasn't too sweet (and didn't also fill the cupcake like the Samoa).  Awesome!

All in all, B had some great food surprises for his birthday.  We'll have to see what we can do to top them when mine comes around in a couple months!

No comments:

Post a Comment