A month or two into enjoying our new condo in Seattle (second property), my husband and I are blissfully exploring our Belltown neighborhood as well as the surrounding areas. Being huge fans of raw oysters, we have been lusting for a dinner date at The Walrus and The Carpenter. Taken from the poem of the very same name in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this is THE place to go for fresh oysters, and has been at the top of Seattle’s hot list and culinary scene since its opening.
Having done a bit of research, I learned that Walrus doesn’t take reservations and one best get there when it opens if you don’t want to endure the typical hour or more wait. So last Saturday we ventured to Ballard and got to the restaurant within 15 minutes of it’s opening at 4:00 pm. Already, there was a line and an hour wait. Since I rarely am in the mood to wait for any restaurant, at the coaxing of my husband, the hostess took our name and we strolled Ballard Ave. for just under an hour.
On our promenade we passed many watering holes, restaurants, unique shops, a trendy bakery, and D’Ambrosio Gelateria. A few of these places caught our eye, namely an Italian restaurant Volterra, and Hot Cakes – a sweet spot I had been introduced to from Tom Douglas Culinary Camp the previous year. More to come on those two later. As soon as my phone went off, we hot-footed it back to the Walrus.
True to form they displayed 6 wire baskets full with the day’s fresh oysters and a shucker just behind the counter making short work of the shucking. We ordered cocktails and two each of the 6 oyster varieties, as well as a wonderful artichoke salad and a duck terrine. Even though we were seated at the bar, the space was tight, and it was a warm day, we still managed to enjoy ourselves. The wait and the cramped quarters were well worth it. The oysters were indeed expertly shucked, without a trace of shell and plenty of nectar for sipping. I can think of one particular Olympia restaurant that could take a few notes on the shuck job alone.
After a light supper at Walrus, we walked a few blocks or so to Hot Cakes – Molten Chocolate Cakery. Like I said, Hot Cakes came to summer cooking camp last year and wowed us with a sample of their boozy milkshakes and smoked chocolate chips. They are most known for their Take-n-Bake Molten Chocolate Cake in a Mason Jar. We opted for a boozy milkshake and some smoked chocolate chips to take home. This is a gem of a place. Unique, high quality products made with some of the best organic ingredients available. Definitely a must visit in Ballard!
Last weekend we returned to Ballard to go to Volterra for dinner. We were seated in the large main dining room filled with chatty patrons eating happily, blissfully enjoying their dining experience. Their offerings of salads and pasta sounded the best to Michael and I that day. He had the Italian Chicory and White Anchovy Salad – with wilted Italian chicory and marinated white anchovy fillets with lemon vinaigrette, fried capers and parsley. I opted for the Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad – with roasted organic beets, baby arugula, and toasted walnuts tossed in balsamic vinaigrette and topped with aged Asiago cheese. They were vastly different salads but both were extremely flavorful, fresh and mighty tasty.
For my entree I had the Pork Jowls and Wild Mushrooms – house made organic egg pasta tossed with smoked pork jowls, locally harvested wild mushrooms, truffle butter and organic Parmigiano Reggiano. Seriously, how can you go wrong with pasta and salted piggy? Case in point – Pasta Carbonara.
For dessert we split a three scoop dish of gelato served with a large flat cookie and seasonal berries, made down the street by D’Ambrosio Gelateria. The three flavors were vanilla bean, dark coffee and salted milk malt. Holly smoke, the vanilla I could take or leave, but the dark coffee and salted milk malt were to die for!
So my friends, get yourself to Ballard for some serious eating and a bit of shopping. Ballard Avenue has all sorts of great stuff. So just park your car and go. Yes, there is a bit of a Hipster vibe, but don’t let that stand in your way. It doesn’t hurt that the famous Hiram M. Chittenden Locks are there either – which is great for visiting on a sunny day.