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Mar 2, 2012 12:34 PM

YYC Hound back for a visit.

Hey Seattle Hounds, it's been a while!

I was down for a visit this past summer, and with your guys' awesome recommendations I had a fantastic trip from a food perspective!
I'm coming back for another visit and I'm hoping to try some new places (and perhaps visit some I loved last time). Has anything changed since the summer? Has anything new and delicious opened up?

My top meals from last trip were definitely Spinasse and Paseo, no contest. I also tried Staple and Fancy which I wasn't as thrilled with, and Harvest Vine which I enjoyed but not as much as my favorites. I also tried Ethiopian/Eritrean food for the first time which I quite enjoyed.

I never made it to Salumi last time so that's on my list for sure. Any other suggestions? I will likely be around Capitol Hill, but I'm willing to go just about anywhere since I'll have some time and I enjoy exploring. Price isn't a huge issue as long as the quality matches, cuisine wise I'll try anything but we have a huge selection of Vietnamese in my city so I'll pass on that.

Also, I love third-wave coffee. Last time I checked out Stumptown and Victrola for the most part, any other cafes I should visit?

Thanks in Advance!

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  1. What's YYC? And what's third-wave coffee?

    6 Replies
    1. re: acgold7

      I think YYC is Calgary, but I'm stumped on the coffee thing.

      1. re: Brunhilde

        Third wave refers to treating coffee like it's the nectar of the gods. Getting serious about aroma and tasting notes and profiles, origins, degrees of roastedness, etc. Stuff we've been doing around here for a while, methinks.

        Some of the best coffee conversations I've had in Seattle (other than those you mention) occurred at Espresso Vivace on Capitol Hill, Neptune Coffee up in Greenwood and Seattle Coffe Works downtown.

        1. re: fracklefoodie

          Ahhh, Vivace Cafe nico.
          Just don't drink too many (and don't ask me how I know).

          1. re: mrnelso

            I am a coffee novice, but I can't really think of Vivace as "third wave;" instead, sort of pioneers/masters of "second wave" who make great espresso drinks. A quote from their site: "The Coffee: We offer two blends only." It's hard to be really appreciative of origins, tasting notes, etc. when selections are that limited.

            I always prop up Empire Espresso in Columbia City; they use Kuma Coffee, a local roaster that has been lighting up lately with their stuff from Panama, Kenya, etc.

            Stumptown on 12th Ave is obviously hip to that game, but I think of them as Portland-based (with just a touch of inter-city [s]jealously[/s] rivalry).

            1. re: equinoise

              I don't mind Stumptown coffee being a Portland based company as long as their coffee is delicious and Stumptown's is. I usually hit the Urban Coffee Lounge in Kirkland to get my fix. I love that they identify their beans as organic or not, source the little hummers and provide so much more information. I gave my Arizona based B-I-L a couple of pounds of beans as one of his Christmas gifts. I have had to send more already. He loves Stumptown too!

              1. re: equinoise

                Sorry to seem to assert Vivace as "third wave." I was just lost in a reverie brought on by thoughts Cafe nico, but agree, Vivace high second wave, and pretty darn good.

      2. OrigamiDuck, please don't keep us in suspense; we all want to know where YYC is please!

        3rd on the Vivace Coffee; I also like Fonte right on first Ave near the market, and little ol' lighthouse coffee up above DT Freemont. They roast right there in the back of the coffee house. I used to live down the street, and drank coffee there nearly everyday. ALWAYS a perfect espresso or Latte, Cafe creme....aaah.

        You might try going to Revel (Korean/french) for brunch while here, then up the hill to Lighthouse for a coffee afterwards - Fremont is probably where you had your paseo fix, and if you need one again, Lighthouse is just West of there a few blocks.

        I am going to suggest Quinn's to you; a very good gastropub in Capitol Hill. Always have too many things on the menu that I want to order. Foie, Marrow bones, specials like nettle soup (soon, I hope!), reliable steak frites, etc. Good vibe.

        Portage Bay cafe is also worth checking out. Love those pickled veggies, and a nice pate.

        Delancy up on 70thW in Ballard for great pizza with a smoky charred crust. Or another great pie is down in Columbia City at Bar del Corso. Lot's of raves for it around CH here locally.

        10 Replies
        1. re: gingershelley

          I'll add Poppy (it's on Capitol Hill) to those good suggestions.

          My other tried and true CH favorites are Olivar, La Spiga and Cafe Presse.

          If you want a casual meal that you might not be able to get in Calgary, there's decent Mexican on the hill--Rancho Bravo (very casual) and Poquito are good choices (many like Barrio but I haven't been).

          1. re: christy319

            Christy, I must beg to differ on Olivar; the Frenchman's condo is 2 blocks away, so we have dined there at least 3 times, and after last one - agree we will not go back. Everytime, the food SOUNDS great, but is only 'good' when it comes. Often oversalted; have had overcooked duck twice, and lackluster soup starter twice as well. Love the room, just wish it was slightly more elevated cooking to match.

            Also meh on Poppy, hot/cold food coming all at once just seems to result in hot food cold by the time I get to it, and all those tastes on thali's doesn't always go together. Again nice room, but don't quite jell with concept. Drinks and dessert tho - worth a stop after movie, etc.!

            1. re: gingershelley

              Wow, I've had completely different experiences at both places, though I am not a regular at Olivar like I used to be, so I can't argue that they are still as good as they were. That's too bad if not. Poppy has been nothing short of fantastic every time I go.

              1. re: gingershelley

                I am going to have to 100% agree with gingershelley. I live RIGHT next to both of those restaurants and have had the same disappointments with both. I love the space and the idea of both of them, but the execution just doesn't do it for me.

                I would also +1 the Bar del Corso suggestion and throw in Sitka & Spruce (with a few oysters at Taylor Shellfish beforehand) to the list.

            2. re: gingershelley

              A little Googling -- which I probably should have done in the first place -- reveals that YYC is indeed the airport code for Calgary.

              1. re: acgold7

                Ah sorry everyone, my weekend got really busy and I wasn't able to get on chowhound.
                Yes my YYC does indeed refer to Calgary. Your assumptions about third wave coffee are correct as well.

                Revel, Quinn's, Portage, and Olivar all look good.
                I like the look of Poppy but if I recall, I heard mixed opinions when I asked last time what's your opinion on it?

                Mexican, I'll keep in mind although we have recently gotten some better mexican food in calgary.
                As for the pizza, I'm a little spoiled by one of the local places here that does a Neapolitan style crust but northwestern inspired toppings, but I'll keep those in mind if I get a craving!

                Coffee wise I'll definitely check out Vivace and the others you mentioned if i have time.

                I keep hearing about a new place called Altura, have any of you heard of it or have opinions on it?

                1. re: OrigamiDuck

                  Altura is great - tiny little restaurant with good food and a counter with a nice view of the kitchen. You choose as many courses as you want from the menu and they size the courses for you so you end up with a reasonable amount of food for your meal. Price increases with each additional course.

                  I am not a fan of Poppy, although it does have some fans here. I haven't really enjoyed any of the individual dishes and together the dishes don't make any sense to me. I'd probably give it another shot, but frankly, I haven't found anyone who is willing to go back.

                  1. re: akq

                    I agree with your Poppy comments. I thought my two visits were underwhelming. Like you, I didn't think the combination of dishes made sense. I'm glad I tried it and then went back to confirm my initial thoughts. I won't be heading back there any time soon and neither will anyone else I know who has eaten there.

                    1. re: firecracker

                      I'll stick up for Poppy--not only has it always been fantastic for me, everyone I know that's gone has loved it too. But there's always just personal preference--for instance, I am highly unimpressed with Spinasse, which a lot of people here think is the best place ever.

                2. re: acgold7

                  Thanks for checking for us, acgold! Mystery solved:)

              2. Alright, thus far it looks like my plan is as follows:

                -Paseo?(May swap for Cafe Presse)


                Breakfast I'll try to keep light for the most part (maybe a pastry or salad or something) as my apatite is not the biggest.

                For coffee:
                -Fonte (I'll hopefully be checking out the market)

                Any thoughts?

                4 Replies
                1. re: OrigamiDuck

                  Paseo and Cafe Presse are quite different, though each routinely prompting oohs and ahhs.
                  Presse has tables looking out big-ol 'see-and-be-seen' tables in the windows on the sidewalk, and your boss in the silk suit would be happy. One does not dress to go to Paseo, but it produces more food, of higher quality, at a lower price, than many places. It's a take-out joint, though, producing mountains of take-out boxes. If you have someplace to go re-plate, this is a feast to remember. Then again, if you can get a tippy/loud/crowdy spot in the lobby and get all that food on that little-bitty table, you will remember this, as well. I recommend option one. Presse is refined and a little spendy, Paseo is lowbrow but bountiful and tasty.

                  1. re: mrnelso

                    But! On a nice day the Rose Garden at Woodland Park is a mere 3-4 blocks away, free, and perfect for a picnic if you take a blanket and a *lot* of napkins. Call in, pick up, picnic! (Offer only valid select days in July and August.)

                    1. re: Brunhilde

                      A great idea. Remember those take-out boxes hold a lot of food. Consider bringing a stack of plates and some better flatware than the bendy polypropylene from Paseo.

                      1. re: mrnelso

                        Thanks for the suggestion. It was August when I was there last so finding a spot to eat wasn't an issue, the location is coming back to me now, I can see where that might be an issue if it wasn't so nice out as I won't have a vehicle or another place to sit... I suppose I'll let the weather decide then.

                2. Hey everyone! So just wanted to say thank you for all the great suggestions, overall very enjoyable trip!

                  Here is my report:

                  Day 1:

                  Flight was late, so there was no lunch.

                  Dinner at Altura:

                  I must say, I was rather disappointed with my experience at Altura. I love the concept, especially the way the menu is layed out (you can order a set number of courses, and those courses can be from any part of the menu, 5 courses can mean 5 mains, 5 apps, 5 desserts or any combination (size will be adjusted to an appropriate amount of food).

                  I ordered 3 courses, I started with a salad. Very interesting salad with ramps and other local veg. Unfortunately the flavors were a little bland (the dressing was bland and sparsely applied, and while I was able to taste the individual greens, in and of themselves they didn't have enough flavor to make the dish worthwhile.
                  Also worth mentioning, one of my leaves had a massive hole (appearing to be from rot or pests) in the middle, which wouldn't have been a big deal if it weren't for the fact that there were only about 10 leaves on the plate in total and this one was at the center of the beautiful presentation. Given the price I paid for the meal I expected a little more care.

                  The other two dishes were the Riccotta Gnudi with stinging nettle in a rabbit ragu, and a Halibut dish with morel mushrooms.

                  The Gnudi themselves were delicious, but the rabbit ragu was so salty I couldn't taste much other than some vague umami (probably the butter, no hint of rabbit flavor).

                  The halibut also suffered from the same issue! The fish was beautifully cooked with a crispy skin, but was over seasoned to the point where the only time a really tasted Halibut flavor was in the skin. The morels as well, I LOVE morels but didn't even finish them because they were too salt and again most of the unique flavor was lost.

                  It wasn't so much that these dishes were oversalted in a 'general sense' (they weren't inedible), but too much salt was applied to taste the subtle flavors in these dishes.
                  I would be willing to give Altura another chance sometime, but unfortunately this round was a miss.

                  Day Two:

                  Beautiful day so I hit up Paseo for a mind-blowing Scallop Sandwich. Just as good, if not better than I remember. Delicious.

                  Went exploring and caught up with an old friend for the rest of the day, and ended up grabbing dinner at Ba Bar. Probably the best Vietnamese food I've ever had.

                  Tried the Bahn Cuon, steamed flour rice crepes with ground pork and wood ear mushrooms. Pretty good, many fell apart on my plate and filling was a little stingy, but overall tasty.
                  What made me rave about the meal was the rotisserie chicken. Fantastic, the herb/spice blend on the chicken made it delicious on it's own. The nuoc cham was a nice compliment along with the side of pickled veggies. I opted to try the rice noodles as my starch. They were fantastic! Thinner than the vermicelli I'm used to and woven together and served cut into 'strips' of woven noodles. Fantastic texture, nice subtle flavor.

                  Day 3:

                  Brunch at Revel:

                  Fantastic, I had the kale, shiitake mushroom, and bacon jook (rice porridge) with red curry. Really nice, the jook itself had a really nice nutty flavor from the rice. The toppings all provided contrasting textures and flavors to each other and the red curry brang it together and took it over the top. My only complaint would be that I think it could have used an extra shiitake or two. Will definitely be back.

                  Dinner at Spinasse:

                  Ordered the tajarin (sp?) with sage butter, and the Salmon with bread salad with celery, olives and stinging nettle. This meal was good, quite tasty but for some reason it just didn't quite live up to the memory of my first experience at Spinasse. The pasta was very tasty but something was off compared to last time, I'm thinking maybe the kitchen didn't give the sage long enough to infuse into the butter? It tasted good, but I lost interest after a little while and ended up leaving about half of it (not worth consuming that much butter).

                  Salmon was well cooked, crispy skin, moist, flaky but could have used some accompanying herb or spice (the fish itself didn't quite have enough flavor to be anything beyond just 'good', probably because salmon season is just beginning I suspect). The bread salad was tasty, the bread was toasted before being cut up so there was some nice contrast between the softer bits and the crunchy crust pieces. The dressing was nice, and did it's job without stealing the spotlight from the other ingredients(whatever it was it was very simple, I'm tempted to say it was just nice olive oil actually). The olives were nice and not overly salty as olives can be, but again were somewhat lacking in flavor (I've had better). celery was both stalk and greens, which to my surprise worked quite nicely with the other ingredients. Overall nice meal, happy with what I got, will return again, but it wasn't on par with my first 'mind-blowing' dinner.

                  As for coffee:

                  I found some pretty decent coffee, but I was rather disappointed overall. Stumptown had the best pour-over hands down. Everywhere else I tried seemed to taste pretty flat by comparison.

                  As for espresso, Vivace has a nice espresso for what it is (an Italian style 2nd wave roaster), very balanced sweetness, syrupy body, just enough bitterness to balance the sweet. It had NO acidity which was a little disappointing, but is not something I would expect from an Italian style roaster anyway.

                  Tried macciatos at stumptown, both victrola locations, and lighthouse.

                  Stumptown I found way too acidic, like a punch in the face.

                  Victrola in Capitol Hill was so flat I wondered if the barista had forgotten the shot and just given me milk (the crema making the latte art suggested otherwise though.)

                  Lighthouse was very bitter, some decent sweetness on the finish though.

                  The only one I was really impressed with was the Victrola location in (First Hill?), it was very nice. Good acidity, which was interesting but not overpowering, and a nice sweetness balanced with enough tail to blend well with the milk.

                  Thanks again everyone, hope you all find this useful.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: OrigamiDuck

                    Thanks for reporting back!

                    For what it's worth, my better half and i always order the tajarin at Spinasse with the ragu (not the sage butter) every time we are there. Something about that combo....

                    Coffee-wise, I've really been into Zoka's beans recently - might want to add them to your list for next time. Seattle Coffee Works - despite its tourist-friendly location by the market - is also worth a visit - they're super friendly and it's a good place to taste varietals.

                    1. re: OrigamiDuck

                      Thanks for the great re-cap!

                      FWIW, I am not a fan of either Stumptown or Victrola, I find both are very underroasted for my tastes (which could be the source of the acidic flavor from Stumptown or the too light flavor at Victrola that you report). FWIW, I find Seattle Coffee Works also underroasts (sorry Terrier).

                      For whatever reason, really light roasting seems to be the key characteristic of coffee at so-called "Third Wave" roasters, whereas the darker European City Roast or West Coast Roast seems to be more common of the older places (i.e., SBUX, I suppose Vivacce and Vita). Since I grew up on SBUX / Peet's, it's just what I'm used to. For espresso drinks, Vivacce and Fuel tend to be my go-tos, at the risk of abuse from this board I think Roy Street (yes, inspired by Starbucks) has great Clover / Pour Over if I want brew coffee.

                      1. re: pusherman

                        Ah, see I think that's where we differ. I like acidic coffee like Stumptown and Victrola, but in both of these cases I think the issue was the way the baristas were pulling the shots. Victrola on first hill showed me that I do in fact like their espresso, if it's pulled the right way. I've also had stumptown's espresso at other cafes (like Barista in Portland) and quite enjoyed it.

                        Acidity in coffee is definitely not for everyone, and I could see if you grew up with out it why you might not be too fond. For me though it's almost essential (I just don't like it when it gets out of control).

                    2. Hop on a ferry to Bainbridge Island and head to The Four Swallows. Great fresh local fish & farm to table greens. Chef is Italian and makes homemade pasta & gnocci every day.Gets packed with locals - I'd recommend reservations.