Barbecue Done Right
Barbecue has long been branded as a summer food, but we think it tastes just as good on a chilly November evening, with sauce coating your fingers and steam rising from your plate to envelop you in a savory glow. This year, the Southern staple found a home in Seattle, with a quartet of restaurants opening in Ballard. In the old Zippy s Giant Burgers place across from Ballard High School, RoRo BBQ & Grill (6416 15th Ave. NW; 206.783.3350; rorobbq.webs.com) serves up a variety of sandwiches, ranging from a smoked beef brisket ($11.99) to a hot links ($10.99) item, while a side ($1.99 $2.99) of good, old-fashioned potato salad ensures that no one leaves hungry. If it s sauce you re after, The Boar s Nest has got you covered with seven distinct options. Try the spicy mustard-infused South Carolina or the bourbon-heavy Kentucky sauce on slow-cooked pork (or Field Roast for the meatless crowd). Mesquite-grilled steaks and house-smoked meats have made Kickin Boot Whiskey Kitchen an instant crowd-pleaser since it joined the grilling ranks this past summer. Our vote for best barbecue goes to Bitterroot, where dry-rubbed, slow-smoked meats nestle in soft Tall Grass Bakery pretzel buns dripping with sauce, and a killer whiskey list offers the perfect finish to any meal.
In recent years, whole-beast cookery has returned to fashion; offal (sweetbreads, brains, tongue) and offbeat cuts have gained popularity. But many chefs have been slow to extend the idea to eating the whole fish. No longer: The fish collar, one of the fattiest, lushest, most flavorful parts of the fish, is turning up on menus all over Seattle. This delicacy, long served at Japanese restaurants ( kama means collar in Japanese) such as Maneki (International District/Chinatown, 304 Sixth Ave. S; 206.622.2631; manekirestaurant.com), where the black cod collar ($7.50) has long had a loyal following, and Chiso (Fremont, 3520 Fremont Ave. N; 206.632.3430; chisofremont.com), where salmon collar ($8) and yellowtail collar ($8.50) are on the menu, is now hitting the mainstream. We ve seen salmon collar at Steelhead Diner, and hot-smoked salmon collar has made an appearance on Palace Kitchen s appetizer menu. And we spotted halibut collar on the menu at Ba Bar.
Smoke as a Flavor
For many of us, the taste and smell of wood smoke clearly a culinary trend riding high this year evokes something primal. Inducing memories of s mores by the campfire or hot chocolate by the fireplace, it s a scent that stirs comfort and nostalgia. So it s no wonder we re such suckers for the s mores cookies at Hot Cakes ($9) in Ballard, where smoked chocolate chips and melting marshmallows add up to a fireside-worthy treat. Martin also uses the smoked chocolate in a baked-to-order molten chocolate cake ($7.50), which oozes house-made marshmallow and intoxicates with the scent of wood smoke in every bite. At The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, the first bite of the sensational multicourse dinner ($150) is a scene stealer: A small hand-carved wooden box is presented, like a gift, to each table. When the lid is lifted, a whiff of wood smoke escapes, perfuming the air, and a nugget of local salmon smoked to a candied finish is revealed perched atop smoldering shavings of alderwood. That salmon nugget? Incredible. And the theatrics? Enchanting.
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