Brunch at Bastille Café and Bar (Seattle, WA)

This could very well be a rainy day in Paris

This could just as well be a rainy day in Paris

One kind of breakfast I don’t have often is French. In fact, I have to wonder if I ever have. French meals at other times are another story.

You can take bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes and cereal, and all their variations, only so much before they get, well, old. Don’t get me wrong, I love American breakfasts. It’s just that it’s nice to have something different every now and then. Living in Seattle offers many opportunities to do just that.

This morning, we were intending to have a Mexican breakfast at Señor Moose. We even went so far as to add our name to the inevitable waiting list. Normally, that wouldn’t be much of a problem, but it was raining and had been for over a day. Not a hard rain, but steady. Since the waiting area inside is tiny, we’d have to while away our time outside.

After a few minutes, my daughter asked if we wanted to go to Bastille, a French café only a few blocks away. Why not?

Without reservations, there was a wait here too, but we got seated within 10 minutes. It would be more accurate to say we were here for brunch as the menu straddled the line between breakfast and lunch entrées.

The interior has a definite Gallic atmosphere, white tiles against black trim and booths, wooden floor, ceiling fans, the works. Specials of the day are written on all the mirrors that flank the upright posts and are mounted along the walls.

We started off with good cups of coffee, a prerequisite for any self-respecting French restaurant. No Farmer Brothers here.

For starters, we shared a plate of brandade croquettes served with tarragon aioli. These cod-flecked potato fritters were deep-fried in olive oil, crispy, savory, somewhat greasy, and delicious.

Brandade croquettes

Brandade croquettes

The cauliflower soup was quite good, topped with croutons and green onions and hiding a poached egg in the rich, creamy broth.

Cauliflower soup

Cauliflower soup

Eggs en cocotte was another successful dish. Its sexual reference aside, the cocotte was a cast iron vessel filled with a casserole of béchamel sauce, Comté cheese (a higher quality Gruyere), slices of Duroc ham, kale and eggs.

Eggs en Cocotte

Eggs en Cocotte

On the specials list today was a beef shank that was braised to fork-tenderness and shredded on top of mashed potatoes with juliénned carrots, and served with two perfectly poached eggs. Poured over the entire entrée was the wonderful braising liquid.

Braised Beef Flank

Braised Beef Flank

A side of bacon (sniffingly/whimsically listed under Le Porc, which also included sausages) was not bad either, well done (per our instructions) and not smoked a la Américaine.

Bastille is not an inexpensive restaurant, especially for breakfast, but a meal here every once in a while is worth a visit to savor food this well prepared and escape the breakfast rut.

Bastille Café and Bar
5307 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107

Lunch at Pestle Rock (Seattle, WA)

Peek Gai Tod (Fried Chicken Wings)

Peek Gai Tod (Fried Chicken Wings)

We’re fortunate in the Seattle metropolitan area that a large number of Asian restaurants have opened in the last, say, 20 years, one of the definite perks of living in a large city on the West Coast. Among the many ethnic varieties, a new Thai restaurant seems to be opening every week. Just last week, Pestle Rock began business in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Their specialty is Isan (or Isaan) regional cooking, a cuisine that is distinct from the more well-known food of central and southern Thailand. The northern region’s proximity to Laos and Myanmar (Burma) influences its food more than the rest of Thailand. Its main staple is sticky rice.

Our waiter was good enough to explain some of the differences. He said, for example, that their menu does not include phad thai, a Central Thai staple which diners come to expect at a Thai restaurant and considered a national dish. The cooking also makes very liberal use of chiles, tamarind and herbs. As distinct from regular nam pla, the anchovy-based fish sauce that is ubiquitous in Thai cooking, Isan uses pla ra, a pungent mash of fermented snakefish. I didn’t establish whether Pestle Rock uses it or not. Green papaya salad is also of Isan origin.

Their fried chicken wings (Peek Gai Tod) was one of the best wing preparations I have ever tasted. Continue reading

Lunch at La Carta de Oaxaca (Seattle, WA)

Halibut tacos

Whenever we visit our daughter in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, the subject of where to eat lunch often comes up. This is not a simple proposition. In most places, the decision might come down to the closest restaurant or a family favorite, usually involving driving there. In the case of Ballard, which has seen a restaurant renaissance lately, the choices are almost overwhelming. Since our daughter lives within blocks of the main commercial district, all we have to do is walk there, so distance is irrelevant.

On several occasions, the Mexican food choice has been La Carta de Oaxaca.

When La Carta opened in 2004, it could be said that Seattle’s Mexican restaurant scene shifted. Continue reading