From the Forge Came Heaven – Miller’s Guild

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A birthday celebration calls for something special, exceptional, and wholly memorable. I took t0e out for his birthday to Miller’s Guild without really knowing what we were getting into – only that they had a gigantic flaming grilled call the Infierno and that they specialized in meats. And what followed next, was jaw dropping, camera clicking, OMG inducing for a variety of reasons (how’s that for a sensationalist hook line?).

The chef, Jason Wilson, is probably better known for his fine dining establishment Crush, which is a solid place in my mind, but not on my recommendation list. Miller’s Guild is a restaurant built around a 9 foot flaming grill, and while it specializes in meat, the chef is top notch in all the other items beyond just meat.

miller's guild - 31oz prime rib

31 oz. prime rib – we came for meat, and they did not disappoint in that arena. 31 oz with the bone in of meat that came on a tree trunk sectional, brown sauce are drippings from all the meats on the grill (heavenly) and green sauce was horseradish-y with truffle oil; 31 oz. is impressive – it was also the smallest rib eye steak on their dry aged menu; and because it is such a large and thick cut of meat, parts of it were more well done than medium rare, especially near the tip of the bone, the meat has a sweetness to it, but it’s not the most tender or most flavorful steak you’ll ever have, but it is by far the most impressive chunk of meat you’ll ever be served. Still, a good steak.

miller's guild - 31oz prime rib close

and blue cheese for good measure

Miller's guild - foie gras

foie gras – with cranberries and granola, the granola pairing is genius – it adds crunch and sweetness to balance the foie, and the pumpkin provides a nice neutral middle ground and the cranberries the tartness, though you have to be careful how much cranberry you eat in a single bite or else it will overwhelm – 1/2 cranberry per small bite is a good ratio, LOVED it! such a wonderful take on an old favorite!

miller's guild - thyme tapioca brulee

thyme tapioca brulee – with fresh figs, a twist on traditional brulee that is not only slightly savory flavored but also incorporate the texture of tapioca pudding, contrasted with a really hard and thick brulee shell (eat this separately, it’s a little too think and sweet); reminded me of Joule’s Jewel box dessert with grapefruit, except a million times better. Try it!

miller's guild - foccasia

foccasia – a loaf for each table, hot off the infierno, served with whipped pork lardo. Yes, you heard me, bacon fat. I could have eaten at least 2 of these by myself…

miller's guild - dry aged menu

the dry aged menu – they cross off each cut once it’s sold, ours was the last one on the left hand column; they also had a chalkboard for their half duck – 10 for the night, they were down to 4 by 10pm

miller's guild - infierno

infierno – the grill/forge in all of its flaming glory.

Overall, Miller’s Guild is on hell of an experience. The dishes are full of perfectly paired flavors that leave you wanting so much more! It’s a foodie place, no doubt, and not just a steakhouse.  In fact, I would venture to say, that the other dishes outshone the steak (except for it’s gargantuan size and house pan dripping sauce that will taste different every night). What an experience!

I’m waiting for someone to order the 60oz steak to see what that looks like. There was a gentleman, spry, business casual, sitting at the kitchen counter directly in front of the grill, and he so thoroughly enjoying himself in a way others would envy – pure rapture eating his steak in a row of couples and conversing excitedly.  He picked up his steak after he had eaten the meat, and proceeded to clean the bone of the delectable remains. Without thought of judgment from others, just pure joy. And not pictured, the greyere mashed potatoes – silky, rich, creamy, even when you’re so full of steak you claim you can’t eat another bite, and yet, one more spoonful of mashed potatoes must still reach my lips.  I have found my addiction and it is burning in the Infierno.

Overall: happily ever after
Highlights: foie gras, greyere potatoes, thyme tapioca brulee
Footnotes: it is dark in here lit by the fire – none of the pictures on the website are representative of how dark it is, lending itself to a more trendy and industrial feel (similar to Mamnoon), it is pricey as most hotel restaurants are – expect to spend at least $60/per person, service is attentive, large communal tables are ideal for sharing large cuts of meat, sit up by the kitchen counter if you want to feel the full heat of the Infierno.

 Miller’s Guild
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Spoiled by Pasta – Vespolina

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Urbanspoon ran a contest to encourage use of its save feature, which I use regularly to track the restaurants I’m interested in trying as the are simply too many to keep track of in my head, and randomly drew me as their winner for a gift card to use at one of the restaurants on my list – Vespolina. I’d like to thank Urbanspoon for giving me the opportunity to try this restaurant!

I had been to the restaurant during the new year when it had just opened as Argona – Spanish tapas and had enjoyed the complexity and inventiveness of their dishes. But when you run an empire built on hand made pasta already, customers are interested more in pasta than they were daring Spanish cuisine, which has no pasta at all. Jason Stratton heard the feedback and bravely revamped the entire restaurant to go back to his Italian roots.  The restaurant architecture and design remain the same, but the name and menu are entirely new.

vespolina - antipasti misto

antipasti misto – the sampler appetizer platter, mortedella, beet and sardine on crostini – a nice balance with beets and sea foam, calamari in hummus – a nice combination reaching a little bit closer to the eastern Mediterranean

vespolina - lamb pasta

lamb pasta – with pine nuts, the sauce was delicious though minimal to let the pasta shine through, there’s a certain chew and springiness that makes the pasta so enjoyable at all of his restaurants. The lamb pasta, while similar to the one we had at Rione XIII (also quite delicious), this one had less tomato and dreamy pasta.

vespolina - braised duck

braised duck – with pears, the combination with pear works quite well though the duck was a touch try, loved the flavor and the broth it was in

vespolina - pumpkin spice parfait

pumpkin spice parfait – with shaved crème fraiche, pumpkin cubes, toasts, and bourbon caramel sauce, this dessert had so much going on in it I’m not sure either of us knew what to make of it at first, mild firmness from the pumpkin, hard crunch from the toasts, melting softness from the crème fraiche shavings, and then sweetened with the caramel. Definitely worth trying!

Overall, the Black Knight and I thoroughly enjoyed Vespolina and it lives up to its brand of legendary pasta. Service is attentive and the space is airy. We ordered just enough for the two of us, even though the waitress recommended two pastas and two entrees in addition to the antipasti.

Overall: happily ever after
Highlights: lamb pasta, pumpkin spice parfait
Footnotes: there’s a large bar area that you can sit at and order the same great food without the fuss of fine dining; we went on a Tuesday night and had no problem getting a table without reservations

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Glowing – Glo’s

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Glo’s was actually plan B on Saturday around noon. I had heard it was popular, so the Black Knight indulged me and we drove across town to wait 45 minutes for a table. The restaurant is tiny, so we had to wait outside, which can be somewhat unpleasant if you’re not prepared, but we got coffee at Starbucks and wandered around Goodwill.

Glo's - pumpkin french toast

pumpkin French toast – made of pumpkin bread served with pecans and whip cream stuffed inside, it didn’t quite have as much pumpkin flavor as I would have liked, but it still quite tasty

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In the Zone – Dough Zone

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It’s Sunday afternoon around 2pm and I need lunch.  I’m tired of eating sandwiches all week, trying to avoid fast food, and don’t want to eat too much as I’m going home for dinner within a few hours.  Lunch by yourself can be an awkward affair, better suited to grab and go, but you get used to it after a while.  If you want good food, you figure out how to be comfortable eating alone. I had been wanting to try Dough Zone to see how they compared to the gold-standard Din Tai Feng for soup dumplings and this seemed like the perfect time to do it.

Dough Zone was still a zoo at 2pm with a 20 minute wait for a table. The fortunate part about dining by yourself, is that they can squeeze you into the counter.

dough zone - soup dumplings

soup dumplings – I loved these first of all, they had all the hallmarks of a good soup dumpling – plenty of fillings, they poured juice when you bit into them, the skin wasn’t too chewy and they had decent flavor; Din Tai Feng still holds the crown on these though – theirs are more delicate in the wrapping and have a bigger oomph on the meat flavor; however, these are only $9 vs. their $13 and doesn’t have the benefit of being a worldwide phenomenon

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Flaming French – Pomerol

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My sister can’t get foie gras in California, so when she comes home to Seattle, we must have at least one foie gras. Since it was her birthday, we found restaurant that serves FOUR dishes using the succulent lobes – Pomerol. They’re a relatively new french restaurant in the Fremont area that has their own wood fired grill in a minimalist setting.  There’s nothing stuffy about this place, but it’s trendy without being too edgy.

Pomerol - grilled octopus

grilled octopus – a job well done on the texture, they made good use of their grill

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They’ve got CHOPS! – Porkchop and Co.

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Where should I start with Porkchop and Co???  Nutkin and crew decided to go here for dinner on a whim, not really knowing what to expect as I had heard of it in passing, but hadn’t paid much attention to it. But I’m paying attention now.  With a name like Porkchop, they were going to have to have some good pork dishes and they did not disappoint.

We made a reservation for 8pm on Saturday night, but as it turns out, that wasn’t necessary as it was mostly empty. Their menu consisted mostly of small plates, sandwiches, a 3 course pris fix dinner, and pickled veggies. And a whole chicken that Nutkin and she-Nutkin debated ordering before we decided that we were going to order family style to try more things on the menu.  That was the smartest move we made.

pickles & kimchi - pickles, carrots, cauliflower, kimchi; sadly the pickles were a little limp and the kimchi doesn't have the punch of a Korean restaurants kimchi (it's less vinegary and spicy) but is probably a good choice for people who are unfamiliar with kimchi; the cauliflowers were the standout in this starter

pickles & kimchi – pickles, carrots, cauliflower, kimchi; sadly the pickles were a little limp and the kimchi doesn’t have the punch of a Korean restaurants kimchi (it’s less vinegary and spicy) but is probably a good choice for people who are unfamiliar with kimchi; the cauliflowers were the standout in this starter

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