Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Special Seattle Transplant Edition

This just in from FG10, who has recently relocated to the great Foodie mecca of Seattle.    She has been faithfully eating her way through town, in between settling her three kids into new schools, unpacking boxes, keeping her career moving, and meeting all the neighbors in the modern-day equivalent of Mayberry.  What a trooper! Take it away, FG10!

My foodie adventures began in Seattle practically the second I stepped off the plane in July. I discovered an amazing Asian market called Uwajimaya that changed my life. The produce was some of the most beautiful I'd ever seen and there was an entire meat section just for perfectly cut stir fry. My kids were fascinated watching the locals pluck any kind of seafood you could think of from tanks and having the butcher prepare it for them...... fish heads were flying! I found my favorite Japanese face cream, Yu-Be, picked up the best peaches I have ever eaten (except for Pike Place Market Sosio's Produce's "Oh My God Peaches" which are truly worth placing an order to be shipped when in season) and then found amazing food court right through the back door.

SHILLA KOREAN BBQ was in that food court, right next to a Beard Papa's.  We had lunch combos, and the meat was prepared perfectly: incredibly tender and marinated to perfection.  It was served with sticky rice, sprouts and Kimchi.  Hannah got chicken, which was delicious, but I loved the beef. The owner was super friendly and so concerned we were happy. We wondered if everyone in Seattle was this nice and accommodating. (Mostly, they are!) He asked if this was our first time and helped us order just the right thing.

Once we got settled and started venturing out more, we were on the hunt for a couple of things: good summer ice cream and a hamburger that could replace In N' Out.  On a friend's advice and positive online reviews, we headed for MOLLY MOON'S ICE CREAM. Making it across University traffic (worse than LA) to a little spot called Wallingford, there it was with the boxer dog face on the sign.

The shop was vintage in aqua and chocolate brown and the people working there were scooping fast and furious. The flavors, which rotate seasonally, on our visit were Vanilla Bean, Theo Chocolate, Strawberry, Vivace Coffee, Scout Mint, Salted Caramel, Honey Lavender, and Earl Grey. The ice cream was premium, handmade, super creamy and so rich it was hard to finish the very generous scoop they give you. The vanilla (which my youngest daughter ordered in a waffle cone!) was delicious. My son, though, was disappointed in his Theo Chocolate. It wasn't nearly chocolate enough. Of course, he's a kid who eats Baskin Robbins Chocolate Fudge, so it's hard to find ANY chocolate as chocolate as that! Hannah ordered the Strawberry, and that was the best of all, with chunks of amazing strawberries and just enough cream.  It tasted like a bowl of strawberries with fresh whipped cream. I tried the Salted Caramel but it was really heavy on the salt, so a full scoop was a little much.   On a future visit we tried Scout Mint, a flavor I think is one of their best.  It's just like eating a Girl Scout mint cookie-- so yummy!! In the fall we tried a fantastic Cinnamon and Pumpkin Clove. Thumbs up for Molly Moon's!

Next up, burgers!!  After poring over magazines and reviews, I have my list for Seattle's best burgers and we are tackling them all. One afternoon for lunch I piled the kids and a visiting friend off to UNEEDA BURGER in the Fremont district. After a very confusing drive (thank goodness for Pam, my talking GPS system!), we arrived at a very little parking and a very crowded restaurant. The place is situated in an old garage and there were several cooks busy at work in the back while the long counter served to take orders. Seating was a small section inside with tables outside of the fold up garage doors. The special of the day was a Chinese Water Buffalo Burger, which was a little too adventurous for my fellow eaters: my three kids and a very tradition-bound adult male. He opted for the BBQ burger, my son went with a Bacon Cheeseburger, Hannah had her usual toppings of lettuce, ketchup and caramelized onions, and my six-year old went with the plain. (Surprise!!) I ordered the Blue Cheese Burger. (menu here)

We were enjoying the sunny day and nice surroundings, but were tantalized by the amazing aromas coming from the kitchen. My name was called, and after that, we hardly spoke. The table went silent as we inhaled and then the gasps began------- UNEEDA------we do!

Riley claimed it was the best burger she's ever eaten. Danny looked like he was about to pass out from euphoria, Cayden's lasted all of 5 seconds and I savored every morsel.

The fries were delicious with just enough salt.  The onion rings were one of the best things about the meal and the shakes were thick, flavorful and refreshing. The burger was clean, not greasy at all and tasted, well, healthy if that's at all possible. The condiments were simple.  For me blue cheese, caramelized onions and watercress. When it was all done, we wanted to do it all over. We'd found a winner and have been back every month.

So what do you do after pigging out on fries and burgers? EAT PIE!  Down the street at PIE we ate ourselves silly and took more home to try. Fortunately, they have mini pies that are no more than a few bites, just perfect for sampling.  Choices include peach/blueberry, apple, lemon curd, lime, chocolate cream, peanut butter, cherry, and mixed berry.  They have savory pies, too, but honestly? The chocolate and peanut butter were amazingly creamy, flavorful and rich, the crust delicate and flaky. The berry was delicious, too, but my favorites were the lemon and lime, with the perfect ratio of sweet to tangy.

Next up, RED MILL. Oprah said it's one of the 20 burgers you have to eat before you die, and it's just 10 minutes from the house.  Clearly, a must.  Red Mill is an old hamburger joint with a small counter and a line going out the door.  Always a good sign, food-wise, but less than thrilling with three kids in tow. We get to the counter to order and see the biggest stack of bacon you can imagine.  There must have been 30 lbs. of bacon stacked up on the side of the grill.  But then came the game changer -- a sign that reads: "WE USE PEANUT OIL FOR OUR FRIES." REALLY?? Now we have two sad kids who don't get fries and they immediately wrote this one off.  The burgers arrive, very large and very messy, with lots of good sauce, but they didn't wow any of us in taste.

In N' Out blows them out of the water. Oprah needs to visit UNEEDA or...

LUNCHBOX LABORATORY.  This place has been featured in Seattle Magazine as best burger and is in just about every book I have read about Seattle places to eat. My parents were visiting so on a rainy, cloudy day (no, it's not like this every day!) we made our way to South Lake Union.  The restaurant sits on a corner in a great little shopping area down the street from the flagship REI store.

We greet the very friendly hostess and though very busy, they manage to seat us in about 15 minutes. The decor is fantastic -- recipes for the laboratory are written on chalkboards, and vintage lunch boxes are scattered around the restaurant. There is billiards upstairs and a bar to the right of the restaurant. Drinks and shakes (listed as "experiments" on the menu) are served in beakers. We look at the amazing selections and wanted to order everything.

We ordered the Mac and Cheese appetizer and Vanilla, Peanut Butter Cup and Oreo shakes. The shakes arrived with a huge helping of real whipped cream, and as everyone sipped away, eyes rolled back in heads. They were amazing!  Probably best shakes any of us have ever had.  The flavor was crazy: one was a liquid oreo cookie,  the next a liquid, creamy peanut butter cup. My dad, who didn't order one, kept sampling everyone else's.  

The decadent mac and cheese disappeared instantly. The tater tots were cooked perfectly, golden brown and delicious, the sweet potato fries were especially good and the burgers put Lunchbox over the top! In N' Out has found a replacement...... for now.  UNEEDA is a very close second (actually first place in my husband's eyes).  Both of these are so good that in my opinion it's well worth the $200 fare on Virgin to come try for yourself, fellow foodies!


All I can sas is, "Wow!" As I start clicking away on Expedia to get myself up to Seattle, pronto.  Thanks, FG10!

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