If the packed house at her popular oyster bar The Walrus and the Carpenter is any indication, Seattle chef Renee Erickson's food is in high demand. And when this busy chef finds time to go out herself, she's doesn't want to go to just any-old-place.
"I'm looking for places that are comfortable, lively. Full of honesty, familiar faces of people that I love. Simple, holistic, ingredient-based food. Stuff that people are really proud they're serving," said Erickson.
Good ingredients and good wine can be found at Renee's first stop.
"This is Vif, which is a cafe and wine shop on Fremont Avenue," said Erickson. "Lauren is the chef of all the food, all the pastries, all the lunch. I order wine of course, and the Endive salad is what I have most days when I come here for lunch. It's really delicious simple with shaved parmesan and some really buttery croutons and a balsamic vinaigrette. And then the pate on special occasion. A real simple mousse, still pate with pickles and pickled shallots and delicious Columbia City bread. It's really soulful and lovely food."
Not too far from her own home, you'll find a place that takes bar food to another level.
"We're at Essex, which is a bar right next to Delancey in Ballard. And Essex is my local watering hole," said Erickson. "So my favorite thing here at Essex is this burger which is made with Skagit River Ranch beef that's incredible. Cooked in a wood oven and it's pretty much perfect. The wood oven is part of what makes it so incredible. He roasts the beef in the wood oven."
Even the oysters here feel the heat.
"These are Hama Hama that are roasted with butter, chili sauce that's just really incredible," said Erickson.
Finally, not too far from Erickson's restaurant, The Whale Wins, a few of her disciples are making a name for themselves.
"This is Manolin, which is a restaurant on Stone Way. It's owned by two really great friends of mine and ex-employees," said Erickson.
"They do a lot of really beautiful ceviche, raw fish, smoked fish kinda with a Latin American, Hawaiian influence. For me, it's a really nice shift in food. Really fresh, really good ingredients," said Erickson.
"I always have the rock fish ceviche. It's been on the menu from the beginning, and it's beautiful. And they currently have a tea smoked squid dish that's really beautiful with lotus root chips," explained Erickson. "And just recently they put on a halibut dish, 'tis the season, and it has a great mole sauce and some honey which is a nice contrast to the spicy mole."