Here’s a crazy thought: What if there were as many Canadian restaurants as Mexican restaurants in Seattle? I know, there’s no “Canadian” cuisine as such, and there is a great tradition of regional Mexican cooking.
Cactus, in Madison Park, was fiercely Mexican when Marco Casas Breaux founded it; it’s become more Tex-Mex as the new owners have expanded the concept and opened additional branches in West Seattle, Bellevue and South Lake Union.
So, how about Spanish, then? The most solid evidence of a successful Spanish restaurant in Seattle has to be The Harvest Vine (2701 E. Madison St.) in Madison Valley, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in September.
The Harvest Vine was founded by Basque chef Joseba Jimenez di Jimenez and his wife, pastry chef Carolin Messier. Basque, not Spanish, Jimenez di Jimenez would remind his visitors.
After almost a decade, he decided to attempt a decidedly Basque tapas bar in Belltown called Txori; it had a respectable run (and survives to this day as Pintxo).
In the meantime, Jimenez di Jimenez and Messier divorced. Jimenez di Jimenez, who lives in Thailand now, visits Seattle on occasion as a restaurant consultant. The business of running The Harvest Vine is now Messier’s.
Fortunately, she’s got a great staff: general manager Jeffrey Watanabe, floor manager Juan Carlos and two amazing cooks on the line — the always-cheerful Joey Serquinia and Jeff Konkle, whose expression is one of intense concentration on the task at hand. And the task is to create a work of art for every small plate, no matter how humble.
Pritty Boys Pizza
In Madrona, overlooking the vest-pocket Al Larkin Park, kids are swarming around the play area inside Pritty Boys Family Pizzeria (1430 34th Ave.) or sitting with their families in the sunlit dining room, awaiting the pizzas that will be placed on the restaurant’s space-saving stands.
Three waitresses take orders for drinks while owner Darren Pritt delivers the pies. Sports fans are also welcome, with the back half of the restaurant devoted to Seahawks and Sounders games on wide-screen TVs.
For Pritt, the restaurant (which is in the space once occupied by Dulces Latin Bistro) is a consolidation of sorts. For the last several years, he’s also been a silent partner in Belltown’s Branzino but sold his majority interest just last month to a group of Korean investors.
Pritt grew up in Seattle, not in the restaurant business but in an environment of technology. His father, Frank, founded Attachmate, a pioneer in the field of computer terminal emulation, which grew from a single, local office to a worldwide company. For Darren, it was a bit of a stretch to enter the world of marinara sauce, extra cheese and gluten-free crusts, but he’s made it his own.
And if you’re not impressed with the wine list at Pritty Boys, duck over next door to Bottlehouse (1416 34th Ave.), where the one of Seattle’s most erudite sommeliers, Jameson Fink, will pour you a glass that’s guaranteed to pique your palate.
So let’s swing over to Starbucks (4000 E. Madison St.). The new Starbucks/Danone yogurts will be part of Evolution Fresh, the juice-bar concept that Starbucks picked up (for $50 million) last year.
In the meantime, Starbucks made an even bigger bet ($100 million) on La Boulange, a 122-unit chain of California bakeries created by a young Frenchman, Pascal Rigo. No more dry slices of pound cake! No more cold, greasy croissants!
What Rigo figured out was how to bake croissants and sweet rolls, then freeze them so they wouldn’t need preservatives. The individual pastries are reheated on-site in convection ovens.
RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer and consultant who blogs at Cornichon.org and Crosscut.com. To comment on this column, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.