Hot Dish

Lakeside Nosh The latest convert among serious restaurateurs to a light, snackable menu is Philip Mihalski of Nell's, who will begin offering his "Happy Hour-and-a-Half" early evening menu on Monday. Items range from true happy-hour bites—a dishlet of spicy roasted pecans or citrus-marinated olives (both $3)—to more substantial fare like terrine of duck liver ($6), onion tart with Jerusalem artichoke chips and hazel butter ($8), and Nell's old standby, Saleh's calamari, parsley, and aioli ($8). The menu's available from 5:30 to 7 p.m. inside and out (when it's warm enough). Better beverage bonanza The end of April was rosy for local drink-making professionals. On consecutive days (April 26–27), Hines Public Market Coffee barista Bronwen Serna and Palisade barkeep Kelly Valentine were crowned queens of their respective trades at the U.S. Barista Championship in Atlanta, Ga., and the annual cocktail competition sponsored by Seattle-based restaurant chain Restaurants Unlimited. Valentine's Tradewind—a mix of pineapple, Absolut Mandarin, grapefruit juice, and passion fruit—narrowly beat out Berkeley mixologist Colin Waters' Voxy Lady, which blended pear, sage, vodka, and smidgens of sake and vanilla. Serna bested dozens of fellow baristas from across the country in five competitive categories, including taste (evaluated by four "sensory judges"), presentation, technical skills, cleanliness, and overall impression. In mid-June, Serna will put her mocha mettle to the test at the World Barista Championship in Trieste, Italy. The times, they are a-changin' Even in dining, the countercultural cohort has to grow up eventually. Consider, for example, the recent refashioning of Fremont's longtime hippie oasis, the Still Life Cafe, into a semiupscale French/Italian joint now known as the 35th Street Bistro. Co-conceptualized by former Boat Street Cafe chef-owner Renee Erickson, whose beloved U District restaurant closed its doors in June of 2003, the Bistro also plans to put chefs Rene Likitprachacomb and Brandon Wicks (ex–Dahlia Lounge and –Earth & Ocean, respectively) to excellent use in a kitchen that's already turning out continental fare more suited to the tweed-wearing parents of hippies than the hippies themselves. Truffled wild-mushroom pasta, seared Alaskan halibut with crème fraîche, and coconut-vanilla French toast are but a sampling of the Bistro's opening salvo. Food afloat The summer cruise season has hardly begun, and already drivers are grousing about the taxi jams on Alaskan Way outside the Holland America Line's cruise terminal, while uptown merchants are complaining that so far the summer's 45 scheduled cruises are not bringing in the business the way they were expected to. But hold your horses: Maybe Fifth Avenue's boutiques are languishing, but local chicken ranches are doing land office business. According to Holland America stats, its voracious passengers will consume 34,500 eggs, 2,300 gallons of milk, and nearly 35 tons of produce each week, not to mention the weekly $11,500 spent on cut flowers before the season ends in October. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at food@seattleweekly.com

 
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