Current Favorite Wine Bars in Seattle

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetFor the last couple of years I’ve made the same resolution: that I’d get into wine. Why? Because it was time. Because it pairs with food—my one true love. Because it’s history and science and art. And because it makes me feel warm and like my jokes are landing while I swirl my glass like an intellectual and a sophisticate.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that, to get in to wine and to learn about wine, you must do exactly what you’re hoping you need to do: drink as much of it as you can. Wines of different regions, varietals and production methods; reds, rosés, oranges, sparklings, and whites (if I can get over my Chardonnay prejudices then so can you, bud); wines that make you uncomfortable because you can’t say their name which means the server is going to think you’re less cool than you were trying to convince them that you were. All. The. Wine.

The best place to taste? Wine bars (duh), and Seattle has some great ones. Here are a few that are nursing my grape cravings at the moment:

Revolution Wine — Capitol Hill

Revolution Wine first blipped on my booze radar when I learned about a sweet and satisfying summer treat they were serving in 2016: frozen rosé aka frozé (of #frozéallday fame)—a slushy unlike anything that poured from the tap of those circus tent striped Icee machines of yesteryear, and instead contained ingredients like Lillet and Pinot Grigio; Coconut and Sauvignon Blanc. I slurped them all summer long on their sun soaked patio through pink and white-striped paper straws. Try and tell me there’s a better way to beat the heat.

Wine bar and wine shop, Revolution Wine (now Revolution Wine and Cocktail Lounge) sits at the corner of Pike and Belmont on bustling Capitol Hill. Leather couches, candle light, and soft textures and tones throughout the space are offset by the pop art-style mural that spans the entirety of the back wall, making the room feel comfortable but not stuffy.

The wine’s listed on the menu are limited, but you’re welcome to purchase a bottle from their selection on display to enjoy there as well. Last time I visited I had a glass of red that I can only describe as, “colorful leaves in the fall and maple straight from a tree tap.” It was a Tempranillo and I think it might’ve forever changed my mouth.

Recently Revolution has added a full cocktail list to their menu, as well as a selection of beers. Oh, and snacks. Do not sleep on the snacks. Probably just go with a group for a happy hour sitch so you can order everything on the menu (because, truly, there’s something for everyone).

Hot Tip: In the window facing Pike Street there’s a running list of tastings and wine events that are being hosted in-store. You’re gonna want to check those out—they’re where the real revolution happens. The wine revolution (that might be overkill I’m sorry??)

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Bar Ferd’nand — Capitol Hill

A selection of carefully curated wines on display around every corner, warmly toned string lights effortlessly draped amongst the exposed wooden support beams, and an open kitchen complete with a cooking fireplace—walking into Bar Ferd’nand feels like walking onto the newly renovated patio of your cool friend’s Euro villa. A friend who is clearly living their best life, and you’re along for the ride.

The first time I went to BF (not what the Seattle sophisticates call it) was a day I’ll henceforth refer to as: The Day I Drank Too Much Wine in Public and Joyfully Frolicked Around My Neighborhood In The Rain, but that’s another story for another time.

***Important tidbit no.1 about visiting Bar Ferd’nand: Do not be mistaken—even though the sandwich board is on the left side of the hallway, the entry to the bar is on the right. This is probably obvious to most people, but I once spent five minutes looking for a secret entrance into (what I can only assume was) a storage closet.***

At the time of my first visit my wine knowledge didn’t stray far from what was available in the wine aisle at Safeway.  As I glanced above the bar, it became clear that I was unfamiliar with many of the varietals written on the three chalkboards that displayed the menu, but the bartender quickly assuaged my wine worries by inviting conversation about what I’d liked before and which wine profiles set my palate on fire. I asked her about 200 questions and she was able to answer them all with ease—it was clear she knew her shit. She poured some tastes of wines she thought I’d enjoy, we discussed, and then I settled on my first glass of red—a mouthful of olive tapenade, balsamic, and sun dried tomatoes. Nailed it.

I know what you’re thinking, “What about the snacks,”. Oh, there are snacks. Remember that open kitchen I mentioned? Yeah, it’s plating up things like a pâté of pork and dried tomatoes, cured fish and meats, pizzas and my current favorite: buttery chantrelle “alla carbonara”. You can view the entirety of the current food menu here (including the tasting menu!)

With their focus on quality, artisanal and natural wines, Bar Ferd’nand always leaves me feeling comfortable, excited, and like I’ve learned a little something. They even encourage wine education by hosting weekly tastings on Wednesdays from 5-7pm with a different theme every month. In February they did a Badass Women of Wine series and I am SO upset I missed it.

Not a wine person? They offer a CHILL list of beers, ciders and sakes.

Check it out and grab a glass—or a whole bottle from their bottle shop.

Bottlehouse — Madrona 

People had been telling me about Bottlehouse for like two years before I ever finally made my way to Bottlehouse. And I’ll tell you what, the first thing you need to know about Bottlehouse is that you have got to go to Bottlehouse. [insert clap emojis between all of those words].

First of all, Madrona is the most charming neighborhood in Seattle—so it makes sense that this is where you’ll find one of the most charming wine bars. I went for post-BBQ wine with five friends on a Friday (an untraditional series of events, but it was my birthday and I was queen) . While we waited for a table we perused the selection of wines and trinkets that were for sale at the front of the store. Before even seeing the menu we’d mentally swiped right on about thirteen bottles.

Bottlehouse’s dining room has walls of windows, so I’m sure it lets in all kinds of Seattle “sunlight” in the day time, but at night it’s candle lit and full of animated wine-fueled chatter. The artwork was eclectic, and so was the wine menu. Wines of all colors, vintages and styles. I couldn’t begin to tell you everything we ordered, but I can tell you that between the five of us we probably had glasses from 75% of the menu—including Tawny port. The wine list is extensive and easy to navigate, so it doesn’t feel as intimidating as a chalkboard might.

Other things they have:

  • Cheese boards
  • A killer happy hour
  • A BIG patio where I’ll be getting too tipsy on French white wines this summer

Le Caviste — Downtown

Le Caviste translates to The Wine Cellar, but personally for me it translates to, “I’m really trying to become a regular because I love it so much.” As I’m sure you’ve already assumed, Le Caviste specializes in French wines. They also specialize in the best meat/cheese boards of this entire list so really planche out and order something unfamiliar like the chicken liver paté (do puns work with French words?).

Every time I’ve been to Le Caviste it’s been filled to the brim—from the windows to the… chalkboard walls. I like sitting at tables but I LOVE sitting at the bar because their bartenders are, how do you say, the literal best. They are so educated in the wines and will absolutely point you towards what you’re feeling, or perhaps something you really didn’t expect.

So, go have an evening’s worth of an Eat, Pray, Love experience in this wine bar that will absolutely transport you across the Atlantic—except you’re still in the same city, everyone speaks your language and the only thing that’s French is the wine (and maybe that attractive person to your left) so better just fill yourself up on that.

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Left Bank — South Park

Did ya’ll know there’s a neighborhood in Seattle called South Park? Did you know there’s a wine bar there? Did you know that not only is there a wine bar there, but they’re serving up some of the most interesting bottles in the city? Because I sure didn’t—until a few weeks ago. Left Bank is hidden behind gray, industrial walls, and the only thing announcing it’s presence is a sandwich board proclaiming the holiest words: WINE WINE WINE.

We walked in at 4pm on a sunny Saturday. After sitting down at the bar we were greeted by the owner, Campbell Scarborough. One thing lead to another and we’d decided to do the red flight. It was made up of both natural and conventional wines from all over the world. The most memorable two for me were this natural Gamay (that we got to compare with a more conventional Gamay) and a crazy Chilean red that I SWEAR tastes like Mezcal. I bought a bottle of it so I can relive the craziness at ANY moment.

All along the back wall, wines for purchase are displayed like colorful, alcoholic bouldering holds at a rock climbing gym—a focal point that I’ll soon be striving to recreate in my living room. Other than the bar seats there’s a community table in the middle of the small room, and a spacious booth in the back.

The playlist was perfect (SO much Thundercat). The wine was affordable. And the vibes couldn’t have been better. I’d highly recommend a visit as soon as you can figure out where in the hell South Park is (hint: south of Georgetown, YW).

In the mean time, check out their wine cub (LB Wine Clique) and Tuesday Vinyl Wino event.


So what are you waiting for? GO DRINK. Also, talk to your bartender/somm. Ask them questions! It’s what they’re there for and they want you to have a great experience.

Cheers!

Introducing: Gastrono.me

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Our first night in Vienna we sat silently on the couch in our AirBNB and tried desperately to outlast our jet lag. This was our first three hours in Europe of our 3 week Euro trip—what my friend and I dreamily envisioned as being a grand adventure accented by baguette sandwiches in parks, coffees in quaint corner cafes, and dinners in dimly lit restaurants on side streets that were easy to overlook.

In reality it was definitely an adventure, but one that consisted of a few meals out and a lot more frozen pizza than we ever could’ve imagined.

If only we would’ve done the research, if only there would’ve been a service who could’ve made that research happen for us. To ensure that we’d have the gastronomic travel experience that we were craving.

There wasn’t. So I started one.

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Gastrono.me exists to spread joy through food and drink no matter where you are, or what you order. A service that provides guidance for those of us who are hungry to experience the world, customized for your unique tastes.

Whether you’re looking for a cozy Italian restaurant in the middle of Boston, the best cheese plates in Boulder, or a curated cocktail crawl through a neighborhood in your own city, Gastrono.me provides travelers and locals with unique food and drink recommendations, based on their own personal tastes, budgets, and comfort zones.

Rather than relying on solely generalized guidebooks and online Must Eat lists, Gastrono.me works to get to know you and your preferences so we can make suggestions that we know you’ll enjoy, helping insure that your getaways, weekends, and staycations are lower in stress and higher in enjoyment.


How do we get to know you? Through an initial questionnaire, follow up conversations, and consultation. All about what and how you like to eat and imbibe.

What kind of guides do you provide? The site advertises guides for short and long trips, guides for eating excursions, and a recommendation subscription plan (coming in 2018!). That said, there are lots of opportunities for us to work together, so don’t hesitate to reach out!


I started Gastrono.me because I believe travel is a powerful experience that has the ability to change hearts and minds, especially with the impact of food. When we’re encouraged to look beyond the lists of standard tourist destinations we are treated with the opportunity of immersing ourselves in parts of a culture we otherwise may have overlooked. We are given the chance to see a place through our own eyes.

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And now it’s official: our website launched today! You can learn more at Gastronome.guide

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments, or collaboration opportunities. I am so looking forward to this next chapter and the people and places it will bring into my life.

Cheers!

Lauren

Where you should go during Dine Around Seattle [Fall 2016]

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If you’re anything like me, then you’re doing a real bang-up job of counterbalancing your election stress with delicious meals, snacks, and cocktails. And what better way enable yourself do that than by visiting and supporting local restaurants.
Enter: Dine Around Seattle. The bi-annual celebration of local food, chefs, and seasonal dishes from around The Emerald City. I’ve taken some time to break down the list and have determined what my top picks are and what I’d order if I had the opportunity to visit them all. Check it out below!
Key: (L) – Lunch, (D) – Dinner

BALLARD
  • Pork Chop and Co (L) (D) –  3 for $33, 1st course is a beverage, I’d order the: mole braised beef cheeks
  • [TOP PICK] Skillet (L) (D) – $3 for $33, Most excited about the: Like, literally everything sounds really flavorful and awesome
  • Bramling Cross (D) – 3 courses $33, Most excited about the: For The Table course
BELLTOWN
  • Local 360 (D) – 3 for $33 – Most excited about the: porchetta and the dessert selection
CAPITOL HILL
  • Anchovies & Olives (D) – 3 for $33 – Most excited about the: For The Table Course (honestly everything sounds great)
  • [TOP PICK] Poppy (D) – 3 for $44 – I’d order the: Herbed Rabbit Sausage with Glazed Shallots and Tart Cherries and the Braised Pork Shoulder with Vanilla and Pear (…and also everything else wow)
  • [TOP PICK] Rione XIII (D) – 3 for $33 – Most excited about the: for the table course and the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe
  • [GOOD DEAL ALERT] The Saint (D) – 3 for $22 – I’d order the: sopa de tortilla and the yuca frita
  • Terra Plata (D) – 3 for $33 – I’d order the: rabbit terrine and the butternut squash cake
  • Skillet (L) (D) – $3 for $33, Most excited about the: [same as Ballard location]
DOWNTOWN
  • Cha:n (D) – 3 for $33 – Most excited about the: 5.3 bulgogi and ALL of the desserts
FREMONT
  • Chiso (D) – 3 for $33 – I’d order the: dungeness crab sunomono and the local fish omakase sushi
  • Pomerol (D) – 3 for $33 – I’d order the: pork shoulder steak
KIRKLAND
  • Trellis (L) (D) – 3 for $33 – Most excited about the: great choices all around (really doesn’t look like you can go wrong)
PIONEER SQUARE
  • [TOP PICK] Girin (L) (D) – 3 for $44 – I’d order the: grilled babyback ribs and choice of ssam (second course…any of them)
QUEEN ANNE
  • LloydMartin (D) – 3 for $44 – I’d order the: Hamachi crudo, vanilla salt, lemon oil, foie gras and the black truffle risotto, parmesan, truffle (menu changes daily)
  • Toulouse Petit (L) (D) – 3 for $33 – I’d order the: french onion soup and the wild shrimp and housemade andouile
WOODINVILLE
  • Barking Frog (L)(D) – 3 for $44 – Most excited about: the Woodinville wine and the second courses
If you want to learn more about Dine Around Seattle or view the entire list of participating restaurants, click here : http://dinearoundseattle.org/restaurants/
Need to make reservations? Try Open Table http://www.opentable.com/seattle-restaurants or Resy https://resy.com/ (where available)
Get out and get eatin’! If there’s one cause I can get behind, it’s supporting local restaurants.
Cheers!

Carne Asa-duh

It should come no surprise to anyone that last night (without hesitation) I traveled nearly 20 miles in search of (what I hoped would be) The Greatest Carne Asada at a place I heard about through the grapevine (on Seattle Eater).

Admittedly I spent most of the drive frantically trying to capture a VERY elusive Eevie (Pokemon Go has  made it into this blog post and I’m so sorry about it (no I’m not)), but when we parallel parked next to a mostly abandoned strip mall (after getting lost because we drove past it first) I knew we were EXACTLY where we needed to be.

Hot Tip for finding hole-in-the-wall restaurants: You’re more likely to find an actual hole in the wall than to locate the restaurant on your first try.

The parking lot was PACKED. We recognized the logo painted on the window from their website as we eagerly pushed the door to go inside. Upon walking into the small, one room restaurant we discovered that every table was full. The air smelled like smoke (from a grill, not an ashtray) and meats and I immediately began to salivate. After waiting for a few minutes (and then accidentally sitting down at the wrong table, revealing our newbie status) we finally settled into a table against the back wall.

From the way we were looking at the menus set in front of us, you’d think we were reading letters informing us that we’d won the PowerBall (as if we’d found the Cave of Wonders from Aladdin but, you know,  instead of gold it would be filled entirely with mesquite, grilled meats). FINALLY After much debate we decided on a Rib Eye steak and an order of ribeye tacos, squeezed the limes into our Negra Modelos and awaited our prizes.

While we waited on our meals I admired the plates of everyone else around us: there were giant platters of perfectly cooked meats, papas locas (crazy potatoes!) LOADED with toppings, ramekins of fresh radishes and homemade salsas, and a very tempting bread pudding that was calling. my. NAME. Before I knew it our dishes had been set down in front of us and suddenly it was very clear that there would not be room for dessert on this night.

Let me keep it short and sweet: I’ve had a lot of Carne Asada in my life, and this was the best one so far. The ribeye in the tacos was high quality (USDA Prime in fact!), perfectly cooked (medium rare (THE ONLY CHOICE)), and was complimented best by the house made salsa (served in a bowl on the side), a squeeze of lime,  and a sprinkling of onions, cilantro and radishes. The steak? Served on a pickled cactus leaf and can be described as nothing short of Fit For the Gods. Does that feel too enthusiastic? I’m not worried about it.

My final verdict: Definitely worth the drive to Kent (I’d drive it 10 times in a row just for one more taco). Better news? They are opening in Ballard SOON. They’ve been keeping their Facebook page updated with progress! Check it out.

Oh, and next time? I’m getting the damn bread pudding.

Seattle’s Best Mexican Restaurants – Seattle Eater

Asadero Sinaloa coming to Ballard

Asadero Sinaloa – Facebook

X Marks the Spot | Trove, Seattle

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Trove | Seattle

The first time I saw the big, red X was on the day that my office moved from Fremont to Capitol Hill. It hung proudly on a Pike Street facing wall next to several giant, almost floor-to-ceiling windows. The sun poured inside and I could see a sleek, white counter facing an open kitchen, something that looked like an ice cream truck in the corner and a menu boasting various dishes whose ingredients triggered my curiosity. “Trove?”I read out loud from the sign. What was this place?

After a few weeks of being in our new digs, rumblings about the restaurant could be heard in my office. “There’s Korean BBQ in the back,” someone said excitedly. “AND they sell parfaits!” I didn’t know what Korean BBQ was yet, but I did know that I had to go.


What you need to know
Trove is broken down into three* main parts:

  1. The Counter
    Asian-fusion will never have tasted so good as when you watch it being cooked over a giant flame. The air is thick with aromas that hold promises of imminent umami-bombs, and the menu items change regularly. Believe me when I say that you’re going to want to try the sauces that you’re offered by the chef.

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    Trove | Noodle Bar


  2. The BBQ
    While this isn’t your hole-in-the-wall Korean BBQ joint, it sure does make a strong case for itself. The quality of the meats at Trove is evident from the get-go, and the chefs are happy to cook them for you if you’re feeling a little timid about your tong technique. I’d recommend trying a variety of things from different areas of the menu. Our server (who was fantastic, BTW) was happy to help us in our selection of items, and gave us an honest opinion about how much food would be the right amount of food. He was dead on.

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    Trove | Korean BBQ

  1. The Parfaits I have had the parfaits at Trove more than I have had anything else. I will say this: if you don’t have a sweet tooth, these might not be for you. If this is the case please go inside and get yourself a sake. However if you fall into the Sweet Tooth category I’d recommend following your heart and trying as many as you can while the flavors last. They change them every season and I’ve hardly ever been unimpressed. Bonus: If you bring back the branded glass jar that they serve your parfait in you can get a dollar off your next one! (As if I needed more motivation to go back…)

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    Trove | Parfait


Still need convincing?

Here’s 10 Reasons You Should Go to Trove This Summer

1. Who doesn’t like to grill on the dinner table? It’s like the adult-friendly version of playing with your food

2. ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S WAGYU TRI-TIPS. Honestly, they marbeled to perfection

3. The parfaits alone give you at least ~6 reasons to stop by. I tried the cookies and cream with homemade Oreo last weekend, and I had a taste of the Tea Lime Pie (with Matcha custard). Both were divine and I NEED to go back from the peanut butter cup…and the other Matcha one.

4. NOOOODLES. While the noodle bar’s menu changes pretty frequently, I’ve always enjoyed a savory, flavorful, and satisfying meal there.

5. AGAIN WITH THE PEA VINES. They had smoked cashews on them and a hint of a vinegar taste. A perfect side dish to our meat selection (My other favorites so far this season were at Ma’Ono)

6. THERE IS A  ALSO BAR. There’s an  international beer list, a great sake/shochu selection, unique cocktails (of which I want to try MANY), and six beer taps pouring cold, local beer. Happy hour from 4-6!

7. Because there’s not only meat to love, but also veggies dishes. The asparagus and mushroom entree was SO flavorful. Please eat as much of the sauce as possible.

8. Impress your date (or your crew) with a beautiful Asian fusion restaurant on capitol hill

9. Because a Netflix binge of 90’s movies is 300 times better with to-go noodles from their counter (pro tip: favorites right now are the rice cake/curry/kale, the Pad thai/ chipotle/pork belly/yu choy/chili peanuts, and the kimchi pork dumplings)

10. Because, truly, you’ve got to see what all the fuss is about:

Other restaurants in the Trove family include Revel and Joule. I could go on and on about both of them, but I’ll save that for another day.


Please feel free to send any hot tips my way, whether it be a hole-in-the-wall or a trendy place that lives up to the hype (in Seattle, OR ANYWHERE ELSE). Key items I look for on menus often include: Shrimp and Grits, Manhattans, Burgers with Creative Toppings, and Complimentary Baskets of Warm, Salted Tortilla Chips.

Follow me on instagram or snapchat to keep up with my never ending snack journey in real time!

instagram: @lacunningham  —  snapchat: lacunningha

Seattle Eats | Spring 2016

I’ve heard a million times that you should “put your money where your mouth is.” So, I do. I eat.

I spend a lot of my free time keeping up to date on Seattle’s restaurant openings and closings, which chef is doing what, what new food trend is on the horizon (still not sure WHAT in the hell Poke’ is, but I’ll be finding out soon). I have an ever-growing list of restaurants that I religiously meal-plan my weekends (and happy hours) around. If you’re curious, there are currently around 200 items on it.

“But, what can I do with all of this knowledge,” I said to myself in the shower three months ago. And then it hit me.

BAM. Bingo. Make like a 20-something in 2016 and blog about it. So without further adieu, let’s get this party started.

5 cool places I’ve been this spring

1. Stateside – Brunch
I’ve enjoyed an abundance of cocktails served in coconuts at Stateside, but until last weekend I had never had their brunch. Turns out, Stateside’s brunch selections are some of the most interesting, exciting, and delicious that I’ve tried in Seattle.

We ordered:

  • Vietnamese Iced Coffee and Crispy Sticky Rice Finger Sandwiches to start (the filling in the sandwiches is a FLAVORFUL chili/cumin pork that will change your life. There is also a tofu option.)
  • Hong Kong Style Charcoal Waffle (You CAN choose not to top it with coconut ice cream. This is the wrong choice.)
  • Open Faced Golden Brown Omelette (I chose the shrimp/chili/lemongrass/crab paste omelette per the server’s recommendation and I’m SO happy I did.)

2. Meet the Moon – Lunch/Dinner
Meet the Moon has really everything I require for optimal Spring/Summer dining: nearby waterfront views, sunshine and fresh air steaming in through the open garage doors, a well written and diverse cocktail list that makes me feel immediately more thirsty after glancing at it, and finally TASTY. BURGERS. Meet the Moon is a fairly new addition to Seattle and is located in Leschi (my new favorite Seattle neighborhood). I’ll definitely be going back.

Check out if you’re a fan of:

3. Dino’s Tomato Pie – Pizza
If you know me at all, then you know I am always on the hunt for Seattle’s best slices. While there are a lot of contenders for my Top 3, Dino’s slid right to the top with little-to-no convincing at all. From the first time I walked past it’s new, aromatic, perfectly decorated space on Capitol Hill I knew I was in love. They’ve got brick oven pizzas (pro tip: the square and circle pies are vastly different, so try both), Negronis on tap and they JUST started offering delivery. GET. THERE.

If what I’ve said about Dino’s doesn’t sell you immediately, then the website sure will

4. Ma’ono – Asian Fusion
Do’s and Don’ts of going to Ma’Ono

  • DO: Go on a week night. A reservation can’t hurt, but isn’t required. (But then again there is weekend brunch…)
  • DON’T: Skip the fried chicken (unless you dont eat meat, but there are plenty of A+ veggie options, such as the PEA VINES)
  • DO: Skip the Mac’N’Kimcheese. It’s flavor didn’t live up to my expectations, and there are many other side dishes/apps that hold more promise.
  • DON’T: Ignore the Whiskey List. It’s extensive and impressive. (Or the dessert list, for that matter)
  • DO: Make the drive to West Seattle. It’s MORE than worth it.

5. Marjorie – Dinner / Date
I can say, with conviction, that Marjorie was one of the best Seattle Restaurant experiences I’ve had since moving there. The space is charming, the food is delicious and the ambiance is warm, friendly and inviting. I went with my boyfriend and we tried something from every course listed in the menu. Based on the nature of this review, it should come as no surprise that it was all delicious. I’m not even going to tell you what we got, because I think it’s all worth trying. (We’ll BOTH be upset if you don’t start with the Plantain Chips, though)

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Please feel free to send any hot tips my way, whether it be a hole-in-the-wall or a trendy place that lives up to the hype (in Seattle, OR ANYWHERE ELSE). Key items I look for on menus often include: cheddar biscuits, buttermilk biscuits, southern biscuits, and bourbon. (Just kidding).

Follow me on instagram or snapchat to keep up with my never ending snack journey in real time!

instagram: @lacunningham  —  snapchat: lacunningha

 

A Note on Trip Planning

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Voluntary or not, planning a trip starts the moment that you let your wanderlust take over for even a second. You begin to imagine the types of places you want to go, the things you’ll do, the experiences you’ll have, what you’ll eat. You begin to plot out the sites that you couldn’t live without missing, and how your very Instagrammable AirBNB would sit in the perfect spot. Suddenly you start to notice hints of your dream destination everywhere; it invades your thoughts, your dreams, and your conversations. Until one day everything changes…because after months of dreaming and hoping you’ve FINALLY gotten your ticket.

At least, that’s how it went for me. Two years ago Tokyo was barely on my radar. It was just a city that I saw in photos and on TV shows. It was the birthplace of a style we’d learned about in Intro to Fashion called Harajuku; it was the setting of many magical Miyazaki films that I’d watched with wide eyes. Until I moved to the West Coast, traveling to Asia didn’t even seem like a moderate reality. You see, living in the Southeast meant that Europe was a convenient travel destination—it felt accessible, airline tickets were more reasonable, the time difference was manageable. Even closer than that was Mexico, but Asia? That shit felt far. Too far.

A couple of months after I moved to Seattle two of my coworkers went to Japan for a month. They returned with stories that sounded made up, fantastical souvenirs, and many tasty candies. It was then that I began to feel thirsty for Asia. I started to see bits and pieces of Japanese culture everywhere. Slowly (and hungrily) I began to familiarize myself with different kinds of Japanese cuisine in Seattle; I made friends with people who had been there before and were under the “I love Japan” spell that I’d grown accustomed to hearing about. My Netflix queue gradually went from Kimmy Schmidt and Planet Earth to Anthony Bourdain and Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and my Amazon wish list? …I’m sure you can imagine. Exactly a year from my friends’ return I exited the tab where I’d just finished watching Lost in Translation, got on Kayak and booked a flight for six months later.

(Maybe it was the sparkling, panoramic shots of Tokyo at night that tantalized me, or maybe it was ScarJo. The jury’s still out).


Choosing a destination for travel is only the first step in planning your trip. The next step, in my opinion, is identifying why you want to go there. What’s driving you to go to this new place? Is it the historic sites? The culture? The serene beaches? The pancakes? Identifying the reasons you want to go somewhere new will help you shape your itinerary for a supremely custom travel experience. It will be more memorable and enjoyable for you than one that simply covers the bases of that new place (especially if, frankly, you just can’t be bothered to care about some of those bases).

As many of you know, I get more excited about food than I do about most things. The opportunity to try new foods using cooking methods that have been honed for many generations, feeling it’s cultural and historical significance, it’s so life-giving to me. It’s why I’m going to Japan. I may miss some of the statues and the temples, but I certainly won’t miss Chanko Nabe in Ryogoku or “Ramen Street” in Tokyo Station.

Pro tip: An important question to ask yourself is, “When I get back, I will regret if I miss…” what? Answer that question for yourself before you leave so you know that you’re prioritizing all the things you really care about.

Once you’ve determined the WHY of your trip the rest of the planning should come fairly easy. If you’re finding it hard to come up with ideas, do some research. I think travel blogs are a really reliable resource. Take inspiration from some of the adventures the bloggers had, things they ate…but don’t be afraid to  follow their lead and seek out some of your own travel secrets. Also, check out Youtube for video travel diaries and insider information.

One of my favorite travel blogs, Cup of Couple,  just went to Japan, check out a video from their trip below:

IMPORTANT: As much as I preach about curating my own travel experience, I have a pile of books in my room that I’ve been pouring over for the last few months. Not only do they offer insight into things to do, but some also include cultural information and maps. V HELPFUL.

Some of my favorite Japan resources:

*Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who know a lot about what you’re interested in (Authors, Restaurant Owners, Etc). They can often offer up the most unique, fearless travel advice.


Traveling to a new place doesn’t have to be a checklist of obligations and tourist traps.  Make your trip memorable by making it your own, and even making it up a little as you go. A little spontaneity never hurt anyone—only made things more exciting.

One week left until take off!

Sayonara

(I’ve been practicing)

Tokyo Bound // Notes on solo travel

tokyoheaderSMWith each passing year of my life I’ve started to push the margins of my independence a little further. The first big push being when I uprooted myself from everything I knew at 23 and relocated across the country to Seattle. Alone. I knew one person, but he also happened to be the person whose apartment I’d be subletting while he studied in Germany (Hey, Finis!).

To familiarize myself with my new city, I began using Saturdays as an opportunity to explore new neighborhoods. I’d start with a vague idea of what area I’d like to see next, a plan of how to get there on the bus, and maybe one or two spots that I’d read about beforehand that struck my interest. Spoiler alert: more often than not, these places revolved around extravagant looking, waffle-heavy brunch menus and places promising pour-overs made with locally roasted, single-origin coffee. Judge me.

I quickly became comfortable navigating to and around the different areas — always expecting to get semi-lost at least once, and often finding a thrill in it. Meals alone felt like a spiritual time when I could bury my face in a dish that was lifting my spirits to the moon, and could even let a tear roll down my face if it was warranted. I began to stop caring about what people thought about “the girl who talked WAY too much to the barista and is now sipping a cold brew alone” and began caring more about the experience in Seattle that I was creating for myself. I’m a year and a half in now, and while I do have friends that I frequently brunch with, I still bask in the moments when I have a two-top for one and a whole day of discoveries ahead of me.

Some people find it thrilling to shop on Black Friday, or to try things like the KFC double down. I find it thrilling to redefine my comfort zone, so the next natural step in that process to me seems obvious: it’s time for solo travel. While my dad’s hesitations to this idea are rooted (deep) in the world of Liam Neeson’s, “TAKEN”, my expectations are completely wrapped up in the thought of waking up when I please in a city that is completely foreign to anything I’ve ever known with an itinerary that can be anything I want it to be.

The destination: Japan. For two weeks I’ll be chassé-ing around Tokyo — and a few other cities in on the island — on my time. While the majority of people I know who have been there before are encouraging me to fill my schedule to the brim with this attraction and the other, I plan on shaping my days around what I want to eat next and if I feel like spending 3 hours in a park spinning under the trees that are exploding with cherry blossoms. I want to use this trip as an opportunity to gain some insight and perspective on what I want right now in my life. Then again, I also want to use this trip as an opportunity to go to Disney World.

I want to leave Japan with an experience that I have curated, and not one that was dictated to me by travel guides and touristy checklists. I want to explore Tokyo the same way I explored Seattle — spending time in both the popular parts of town, and in the quiet neighborhoods that aren’t always explored by outsiders. I want to find the intimidatingly authentic noodle shops and the picturesque, traditional homes with manicured gardens, as well as pay visits to the famous museums and renowned works of architecture. I want to feel like I saw a side of Japan that I wouldn’t have seen without my brand of curiosity.

I know the idea of solo travel is daunting for some people, and to some it’s even downright terrifying. For me? It’s the next step into becoming the person I want to be.*

*That “person” is also one-step closer to becoming Anthony Bourdain’s successor than I am at this moment.

I’ll be writing some posts on trip planning and preparation in the days leading up to my departure. My plane takes off on March 30, and from that point on — for the next two weeks — you can expect photos and ramen-centric updates to flood my feed.

Looking forward to sharing this experience!

header photo by Alyssa Mcelheny

 

Glasshouse | Seattle

GlasshouseIMG_7091IMG_7130IMG_7036IMG_7069IMG_7084IMG_7140flowercollageIMG_7092 Volunteer Park Conservatory | Seattle WA


Volunteer park conservatory is in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. It was built in 1912, is modeled after London’s Crystal Palace and is home to a wide variety of plants from around the world (including a room full of palms–so trendy right now).

For me, visiting conservatories is always a reminder that taking a break from the screen (phone, emails, Netflix binges)  to focus on the green (nature, of course) is a welcome and necessary break from the static of being constantly on-the-grid.I spend so many hours pounding out emails and double tapping photos of sunsets that sometimes I’m guilty of losing focus on experiencing the majesty of the beautiful place I live. It’s earth day weekend. What are you doing to celebrate?

Consume | Austin•TX (Food + Drinks Want-To-Do List)

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If I let my mind wander to Austin it skips the plane ride completely and instead takes a shortcut right through my insatiable appetite for all things Tex-Mex. I imagine the types of Taco-centric lunches I’d indulge in; what kind of spicy mimosa I might stumble across on a brunch menu; and how long my eyes would be closed during my first bite of Texas BBQ.

Eating and trying new things is a part of traveling that really deepens the experience, and while I’ve never been to Austin before you better believe that I have a list that I’ve started compiling for when I get the chance to go. It covers all the bases from morning to night and even a little snacking in between. Check it out:

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And after all that I’m just here at a coffee bar eating a cold chocolate pastry and dreaming of doughnuts…

If you have any suggestions for Austin please let me know in a comment or email!

Speak to you soon,

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