Ask Jen: Anniversary dinner

Hi Jen -

My husband and I are looking forward to a quiet (yet still hip) night out without the kids to celebrate our anniversary.  We live in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.  Any suggestions?



Spinasse's Ragù: Delicately-thin hand cut egg noddles give angel hair pasta a whole new meaning.

Hi m -

Happy Anniversary!  Here are my thoughts on cool places to have a relaxing dinner with your man.  The first two are even in walking distance.

1) Book Bindery - You and your man could enjoy a nice walk to this Queen Anne restaurant that is right over the Fremont bridge (not far from Ponti).  This modern American restaurant has a cool interior and unique food (and yes, the space used to be a book bindery!).  Unique and original cocktails, too.  Chef Shaun McCrain (former executive sous chef at Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant in NYC) serves up a fair share of crudo and carpacio so take a pass if you don’t feel like raw seafood, but the menu is well-balanced with cooked seafood, meat, vegetables and pasta so I think there is something for everyone.  I would not miss ordering the cavatelli with foie gras emulsion.

2) Cantinetta – Although this Wallingford restaurant has been in service for 2.5 years, Cantinetta still has a local’s feel. The modern rustic space with their dark wood bar is relatively intimate. I always order the grapefruit/avocado salad and whatever pasta the server recommends. This vibrant Tuscan-inspired establishment can get a bit loud for such a small restaurant so I recommend sitting outside on their patio to enjoy the sunset and some peace and quiet.  Cantinetta is an easy 10-12 minute stroll from the center of Fremont.

Cantinetta's rabbit-filled pasta with fiddlehead ferns

3) Pair – I like this understated restaurant quite a bit and it is the most initimate of the four choices on the list. Located just north of the U-Village in a residential area, you won’t have to fight other Seattle-lites for parking. Food is fresh, seasonal and served small plates style. I had a brussel sprouts dish last fall that was so good I still think about it.  The staff is always super kind and service is always efficient and friendly, yet not over-the-top. If you are able to get out of work by 5pm, Pair has a nice happy hour on Tuesdays-Saturdays from 5pm-6:30pm where you can save a few bucks on adult beverages and appetizers. Frank’s Oyster House is just around the corner if you want to stop there before or after. Frank’s has a cute bar area with comfy seats. Great for lounging ;-)

4) Spinasse - Not only does chef Jason Stratton serve up the best Italian food (including spectacular desserts!) in Seattle, this petite Capitol Hill restaurant is rustic and charming.   Spinasse specializes in northern Italian food from the Piedmont region.  Equipped with a resident on-staff pasta maker, Spinasse takes pasta seriously.  If you are not a carb lover, no worries as Spinasse doesn’t just focus on pasta dishes.  Although I go ga-ga for their ragu dish, I also really enjoyed two non-pasta dishes the last time I was there:

  • Duck superbly cooked at medium with a thin layer of crispiness and perfectly pink and fleshy inside.   The accompaniments of  greens and juicy turnips perfectly balance the decadence of the duck.
  • Savory cauliflower flan with bagna caôda sauce. Bagna caôda translates to “hot bath” and is a typical Piedmontese dip.  Spinasse has creatively paired the sauce with their milk creamy flan.

I am not the only person who digs this place so I would definitely book as far in advance as you can and maybe ask to not get seated in the two-banger that is right in front of the doorway (drafty and disruptive as people enter and leave the restaurant).  On Friday, May 27th, Spinasse unveiled their newly expanded restaurant so maybe there is less chance of getting shut-out.  Same location with an additional 24 seats).  This restaurant has the loudest acoustics out of the bunch, but the intimate farmhouse setting always makes me feel like I  am escaping to an Italian countryside.

To read more on Spinasse, click here.

Happy eating,


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2 Responses to “Ask Jen: Anniversary dinner”

  1. Will M.
    May 30, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    Jen – thanks as always for the thoughtful suggestions. Book Bindery was great. The Farroh salad with quinou and mint was super flavorful. And the Mishima Ranch beef something or other was amazing. I’d say it was the best meal in Seattle so far for me. Keep on blogging so we know where to get good food!

  2. Jen (Roll with Jen
    May 30, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Will – Thanks so much for reporting back on your fabulous anniversary experience at Book Bindery! The salad sounded delicious. I will certainly order it the next time I go.

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