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Madison Park Conservatory

The upstairs bar Moving into the the Seattle fine dining scene is an exciting project from partners Cormac Mahoney, and Bryan Jarr. Their Madison Park Conservatory is in the space last occupied by trattoria Sostanza. At the stove is former Top Chef contestant Zoi Antonitsas. Chef Antonitsas began her carrear at Seattle’s Dahlia Lounge and after moving to the San Francisco Bay Area was the executive chef at one of our favorite restaurants in California wine country. At Zazu in Sonoma she refined her cooking skills using seasonal and local ingredients to produce wonderful rustic and creative Italian inspired cuisine. The motto here, “delicious plants and animals”.

The space is intimate and warm with rich woods, romantic and softly flattering lighting and a knockout upstairs bar and private dinning space. Both spaces are intimate with seating limited to 12 tables or so in the main dining room. Want to grab a spot at the bar? Get there early as they have just 5 stools. From the glassware to the plating, everything is edited with thought and style. The upstairs private dining room is a top pick for a small gathering of 10 to 12 guests with shelves lined with cookbooks and a great table made from recycled barge planks, the room features a wonderfully evocative painting by Bob Dylan.

Tuscan Duck PâteThe menu offers a large selection of small plates, which as is the current fashion allows one to make a meal by going for two or three tapas style plates. Highly recommended is the Tuscan Duck Liver Pâte accented by minced radish and pickled grapes ($8). Also try the grilled wagyu beef tongue or the pacific octopus crudo served with limes, chili and ogo seaweed. Main dishes were limited to just seven items all interesting and priced in the low to mid twenty dollar range. Everything is plated in a rustic style that speaks to an honest respect for the ingredients. Standout dishes included the wood oven roasted black cod, served with black trumpet mushrooms, salsify root and dashi ($25) and the braised lamb shank with spice roasted carrots, creamy polenta and a tasty mint salsa verde ($27). Also worth a go is the uni and crab bucatini done with crème fraiche, chive and meyer lemon sauce. The side dishes are to die for, with selections that include duck fat roasted rosemary potatoes, celery root gratin done in cream with a hint of thyme. If one has the room an all Italian style desert menu or cheese board beckons. 

Special mention must be made for the wine list and bar selections. Cocktails are hand stirred with great care and are very well thought out. Any bar that stocks Black Maple Hill bourbon and rye rates as an ‘off the vine’ pick. The somewhat Eurocentric wine list is small but interesting with may food friendly offerings. Wines by the glass are eclectic and of excellent quality, fairly priced. We liked that they have a good selection of half bottles on the list as well. 

otv rating (0 to 20)

food: 18
service: 16
vibe: 17
$ to $$

Madison Park Conservatory
1927 43rd Avenue East
Madison Park, Seattle
(206) 324-9701


DOC Certified - Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria

 As the first DOC certified VPN (Verace Pizzeria Nepolitana)Tutta Bella Pizzeria offers great thin crust wood oven pizza. Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria is the first restaurant in the Northwest to receive the coveted VPN certification in the Pacific Northwest, and it is only the tenth restaurant in the United States to achieve the honor. Tutta Bella is a must stop destination for the pizza lover.

Joe Fugere, the owner, received his certification as a pizzaiolo and traveled to Naples to continue his training and refine his skills. Since the VPN regulations do not state that the pizza must be made in Naples, any restaurant in the world has the opportunity to receive the VPN certification mark, provided that the production of their pizzas meets the Association’s strict requirements. To date, only a handful of pizzerias in the United States have chosen to do so.

What makes this pie standout is the combination of great ingredients (Farina Tipo “OO” flour, Pomodori San Marzano Tomatoes, and superb fresh mozzerella) along with applewood-fired ovens that maintain 700 degree temperatures. The trademark blistered crust, artisan toppings and fine salads complete the picture. All Italian wine list.

Four locations: Visit: online

Columbia City: 206.721.3501  -  Issaquah: 425.391.6838
Stone Way: 206.633.3800  -  Westlake: 206.624.4422


How to Cook a Wolf... and other simple pleasures

Diver Scallops - Crudo Taken from the title of the M.F.K. Fisher novel written in 1942, How to Cook a Wolf, on Queen Anne Hill, is a new Seattle stand out that does indeed quench hunger with a joyful bounty of wonderful creations. The tiny space comes alive with a small plate menu that changes daily. Chef/owner Ethan Stowell and his business partner, Patric Gabre-Kidan, who brought Tavolata to Belltown, borrow on the format but in an intimate and creative new way.

Chef de cuisine Ryan Weed and sous chef Jason Stoneburner, with almost no refrigeration and a very small pantry, produce wonderful, straight forward and profound flavor elements.

I stopped by on a Friday evening and asked the chef to just cook me a couple of dishes that he was proud of. The menu really had so many interesting items that it would have been hard to choose in any case. I started off with a tapas plate—Diver Scallops “Crudo”—sliced thin and fanned out on the plate drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of Serano chilies, topped with a smear of bright green avocado puree. Great texture, fresh and buttery. The warmth from the chilies and coolness from the puree created a simple, seductive and complex combination that followed the rule of three: one main ingredient, and up to two other additions, add up to form a whole greater that the sum of its parts. Complexity and creative interest, and great taste!

Escolar, Morrels, Peas & PancettaFor my next course I was offered a Pan Seared Escolar done with fresh morrels, English peas and pancetta…so fresh, with its mix of sweet, salty, and rich flavors. The fish was perfectly cooked and firm.

The wine list is all Italian…many well priced wines that work well with the food. I really loved a 2007 Sori Dolchetto d’ Alba.

otv rating (0 to 20)

food: 18
service: 16
vibe: 13
$$ to $$$

2208 Queen Anne Ave. North
Seattle - 206-838-8090 -online

No reservations


The International Food Bloggers Conference

Sweet Pea AgnolottiOff the Vine Magazine visited Seattle Washington for the first annual International Food Bloggers Conference focused on food, writing, and technology. Major sponsors included Sur la Table and foodista. The event sold out quickly, and brought together a diverse group of bloggers, food writers and cookbook authors from around the country.

Panel discussions on a variety of topics pertaining to writing style, content, food photography, platform design, legal issues and more were explored.

Wild King SalmonA fine group of Pacific Northwest chefs, producers and retailers provided a wonderful representation of the Northwest-style bounty of fresh produce, fish and locally grown ingredients. Each day, small plate luncheons were prepared. Some of the chefs participating were Jordan Mackey of six / eleven, Keith Luce of The Herbfarm, and Kerry Sear from Art at the Four Seasons.

Some of the food highlights:

+ Wild King Salmon with Indian spices, dandelion, bibb lettuce, and lamb bacon with a crystallized honey vinaigrette. - Chef Kerry Sear of Art

+ Two pasta dishes from Cantinetta: A sweet pea agnolotti with a carrot vinaigrette and a wild nettle brown butter and pine nut ravioli.

+ Sweet churned herb butter, rubarb mustard, Mangalista Pig whole hog sausage, a duo Copper River King and Sockeye Salmon crudo. Soft scrambled farm eggs from The Herbfarm.

Grilled albacore tuna nicoise… miners lettuce, potato cracklings with soft boiled egg and olive salt from Spring hill


Chef Tom Douglas -- A Chef or a Comedian?

By: Laura Sabo  Recently, I had the privilege of being in the audience where Chef Tom Douglas demonstrated his cooking — and humor — as part of Macy’s Culinary Council. Chef Tom is a well respected chef in the Seattle area owning Dahlia, Dahlia Bakery, Etta’s, Palace Kitchen, Lola and Serious Pie. He’s not talking apple or cherry pie, but pizza pie. I haven’t had the pleasure of trying Serious Pie yet, but the audience members that had were, shall I say, serious fans.

I don’t personally know Chef Douglas, but I immediately felt at home when he graciously agreed to a picture not only of him but insisted that I be in it as well. Although I should refer to him as Chef Douglas, I don’t think he would mind one iota being called Chef Tom instead. Something tells me, he’s been called far worse.

Chef Tom with Laura SaboMaybe you caught Chef Tom on the Food Network’s Iron Chef episode challenging world class chef Masaharu Morimoto. Chef Tom passed on a funny anecdote about his Iron Chef experience. He told his assistant that if the Food Network ever called to ask him to participate on Iron Chef, to tell them “no.” One day he answered the phone himself and when asked about Iron Chef, he said “sure.” When they asked if he would take on Chef Morimoto, he answered, “sure”, then they asked, “Are you sure?” Chef Tom’s cuisine reigned supreme that day with the surprise ingredient being salmon. I guess he was sure.

On the board of Macy’s Culinary Council with what Chef Tom described as “pretty boys and girls”, Tyler Florence, Cat Cora, Wolfgang Puck, Todd English and Rick Bayless, Chef Tom is more cute than pretty and definitely laid back. He loves eating in restaurants for inspiration, once a week in one of his and once a week elsewhere, and loves the feeling and energy of restaurants that give a sense of place and being. He’s not fond of the froufrou restaurants saying that they are “full of themselves”, lending to his down-to-earth style. Chef Tom demonstrated three recipes where the audience members were all given samples.

Besides his restaurants, Chef Tom has written 3 cookbooks: Tom Douglas’ Seattle, Tom’s Big Dinners and I Love Crab Cakes. The latter book I keep in my kitchen as a personal quest to somehow, someday make all 50 crab cake recipes. To add to his busy schedule, Chef Tom has foodie events like the recent Baconopolis where 10 different kinds of bacon were prepared 10 different ways. He said folks love to come there to “pig out.”

Could it possibly get any better than that? Actually, yes. This will be the 3rd year that he will be hosting the Tom Douglas Culinary Summer Camp. According to their website, “It’s like summer camp…with wine! Five glorious days of cooking demos by visiting chefs as well as by their own talented crew, field trips, culinary challenges, plus a boundless array of delicious bites, sips, tastes, meals and much, much more.”

As if this wasn’t enough, Chef Tom is the spokesperson for Columbia Crest Winery out of Paterson, Washington where his motto is, “eat local, drink local.”

He also sells a line of 12 spice rubs called Rub with Love, and in May, his products will begin selling on amazon.com where he says, “We’re gonna kick Martha’s butt”, referring to Ms. Stewart, of course. He also co-hosts a radio show on Saturdays from 4:00-7:00 pm. Listen or stream at KIRO.com.

Chef Tom also relayed an amusing incident when he was on the Emeril show. He said that he and Emeril were chatting it up so much before the show in the Green Room that when Emeril asked what he was going to cook on the show, he drew a blank and replied, “I have no idea.” As soon as he got on stage, what he planned all came back to him.

If ever given the chance to eat in one of Chef Tom’s establishments or see one of his demos, go for it. This man really knows how to cook and amuse at the same time.


Tom Douglas Summer Camp

(contact Robyn Wolfe at robyn@tomdouglas.com or (206) 448-2001